I must say, for as long as I can remember, every tip that was given to me about speaking in public involved stripping the audience in my mind to their underwear. A visual that not only repulsed me, but also instigated a throat full of giggles that I had to struggle to repress. I know I wasn’t the only one, for as I got older, I encountered several individuals who experienced the same thing.
So how do we begin to prepare for presentations without subjecting ourselves to potentially horrifying images that take longer to rid from our minds than the actual presentation?
Within this blog entry, I plan to answer just that. You’ll find a sort of cheat sheet to find yourself giving the best presentations that you possibly can. And maybe then you can forget about all of those people in their underwear.
Imagine the Preparation
There is so much you can do to prepare that can make the stress of speaking in public float away with the breeze. However, it’s so easy to procrastinate.
DON’T DO IT.
Instead, take a week before your presentation and begin making your cheat sheet. This is especially nice to have with you while you are speaking. Some people work best with notecards containing key words that serve as reminders of where they should be in their presentations, some people (like me) need a script of their entire speech written beforehand with them so that they avoid stumbling over words with “um” and “uh,” and some people are gifted with the ability to adlib their speeches without a cheat sheet at all.
The important thing is to know which person you are. By knowing how your mind works during these situations, create your own cheat sheet that works best for you and practice, practice, practice. Practice until you feel as if you can’t practice anymore. And then practice one more time.
Practice until you can present in your sleep. The more you practice, the less stress you’ll feel on the day of your presentation.
And if your presentation has a visual aid that requires technology, prepare a back-up visual that you would have with you in case technology fails. Because technology isn’t above failing when you most need it.
Imagine the Fruits and Vegetables
It seems almost obvious, almost cliché to even mention that taking care of your body is just as important as making note cards as to not forget your words on the big day. Your body, as you already know, reacts to different foods in different ways with reactions differing from person to person.
So the first thing you need to do is know your body and acknowledge its temperaments. Avoid the foods that your body holds intolerances to for at least a few days before the presentation. The last thing you want while in the midst of your presentation is an unforeseen, unpleasant reaction that causes great discomfort for you and potentially your audience.
Along with making sure the food you eat is making your stronger for your presentation rather than tearing your body apart, make sure you get lots of rest and a good night’s sleep before your present. We all know how long nights and lack of sleep can drain a person; you don’t want to be a zombie struggling to keep your eyes open while informing your audience about the Marxist approach to reading Oliver Twist.
Imagine the Clothes You’re Wearing
You want to look the best you can when you stand in front of a group of people. If you take your appearance seriously, your audience will in turn take you and your words seriously. They most often don’t have the chance to meet you in a one-on-one conversation, so your first impression is how you look and what you’re wearing.
While you are to dress professionally, also know that you should dress comfortably. Clothes that are itchy, too tight, or fall down a lot are triggers for subconscious rearranging during the presentation, which is distracting to you and your audience. You want people to listen to what you’re saying while looking at your face and visual, not your adjusting hands.
Imagine the Actual Presentation
Speak clearly, enunciate, and try to make as much eye contact with your audience as possible. If you have a soft voice, acknowledge that, and practice projecting your voice. And make sure to speak in a conversational way that engages your audience. Know who you’re speaking to and try not to talk over their heads. An extensive vocabulary is always great to have, however, during a speech, using larger words can lose an audience.
Like with your voice, notice your natural posture and adjust however you need to so that you are standing tall. Not only do you look less afraid, you can also breathe easier. Both of which only help you during your presentation.
It would be to your benefit if you grabbed your roommate or your friend and presented to them a few times before the actual presentation. Have them take notes on things that you do well and also things that you could improve on. It’s always good to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Imagine That You’re Ready
The best possibly advice I could give, even with all the tips I’ve mentioned, is to be confident in your abilities. You have done your research, you have prepared, and you have practiced your speech; you are ready. Know that you are ready. Be self-assured that you are knowledgeable of your subject. No one is out to get you. In fact, especially if you’re presenting to your class, many of your classmates are rooting for you, including your professor.
So shake off those nerves, throw your shoulders back, and show them what you’ve got. And forget about the audience in their underwear. You don’t need the distraction.