presentation skills

Have you ever had to give a presentation?  Do you get nervous? If so you are not alone.

According to some surveys, the fear of public speaking is second only to the fear of death!

I guess it is because there are so many fears tied up into one.  Think about it.  When you are giving a presentation, you might forget what you were going to say = fear of looking stupid or unprofessional/fear of losing the sale / losing your job.  Maybe you have done a presentation where someone in the room appeared to be nodding off – especially if this was an afternoon slot after a big lunch = fear of insignificance.  Perhaps you are worried about what to wear?  That’s a fear of being judged.  How about the possibility of people disagreeing with what you are saying?  Fear of confrontation.  What happens if you mess up?  Fear of losing face in front of your colleagues or bosses.  What if the client doesn’t say yes?  Fear of rejection.  There are probably a few more in there but – blimey!  You can see why people might be afraid of public speaking.

So – what can you do to overcome these fears and give a great presentation.  Well there are many things you can do, and too many for just ONE blog post, but let’s have a look at my top 3 tips for today.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. 

You may have heard the phrase “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.  Well I kinda disagree with that.  You can have great planning and still do a piss poor performance.  The problem is sometimes people over plan.  They plan each and every word they are going to say, and they get it all into the exact order they want it, and then they go over it again and again and again – until they remember it word for word, and have built a kind of ‘muscle memory’ around that presentation.

Well – what’s the problem with that Cheryl?  I hear you ask.  Well, you see, what CAN happen in those scenarios is that you are in flow, everything is coming out just as you have planned.  And then…. The fire alarm goes off / someone asks an unexpected question or a phone goes off in the room and just like that….it’s gone.  You are out of flow.  You have no idea what you are SUPPOSED to say next and it all ends horribly.  I have seen a very famous person (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) completely crumble on stage to the extent that they had to leave the stage and did not come back. OMG.

So – whilst preparation IS important – don’t get too hung up on having everything down to the last dotted “i” and crossed “t”.

This is the prep you DO need.  Ideally – know who your audience is and what is important to them.  Know what your outcome is – what is the point of the presentation and what do you want them to do at the end.  What are the logistics – what AV/equipment is there and what is not.  No point bringing your MAC and not having an adapter to plug it into their Windows system.  Know what the subject of the presentation is about to the degree that you don’t need any slides.

Most people panic and think they need to know exactly what they are going to say.  Remember that the people in your audience don’t know what you were ‘supposed’ to say.   So – here’s a tip.  If you are talking about a subject you know a lot about – then all the info is right there in your head.  You can’t “forget” it because you know it.  So instead of concentrating on what YOU need to say next – concentrate instead on what THEY need to hear next.  It changes the perspective and will keep you in control.

Involve Your Audience. 

My second tip for giving a killer presentation is to involve your audience.  If you have ever been in a “death by Powerpoint” presentation – you will know there is nothing worse than a million slides with a million words on, which the ‘presenter’ just reads – off the slides – so they are not even looking at the audience.

There are 2 main ways of involving the audience in your presentation, and the first one is EYE CONTACT.  If you are speaking to someone one-2-one, do you look at them?  Of course, you do.  It is how they know you are interested, and listening to them.  It is the same ‘from stage’.  If you are not even looking at your audience why should they listen to you or look at you?  Keep eye contact the whole time.  Don’t look over their heads or on the floor – look at the people you are speaking to.

And the other important thing to do, to involve your audience, is to ask them questions.  Questions they can only say yes or no to, generally – but questions which cause them to “check in” with you.  Again, in a one-2-one conversation, you would check in with the person you are speaking to using phrases like “do you know what I mean”, “are you with me?”, “does that make sense to you”.  The same applies “from stage”.  There is ONE difference though.  In a personal conversation – when you ask a question the other person will reply.  From stage – no-one wants to be the first to reply – so you have to make it easy by adding “yes or no?” on the end of your question.  Does that make sense?

Tell A Story.

Last tip for today is – tell a story in your presentation.  I have talked before about the power of storytelling, and if you are now thinking – “but Cheryl – my audience is corporate, you don’t tell stories in corporate land”, then you are wrong.  Sorry to be blunt.  We are hard-wired to learn through stories.  A friend of mine – we will call her Carole – cos that’s her name – used to work for Yellow Pages. When it was a big yellow book, not a leaflet!

And part of their 2-part sales system was a thing called “The Related Story”.  Now in the ‘old days’ – before the internet, Yellow Pages were considered industry leaders in many ways and specifically in their sales training.  They spent hundreds of thousands of pounds learning what made their customers buy and how their product worked.  The related story was a story of someone (the customer’s customer) using Yellow Pages to find a company just like them.

Now, these guys did not waste money on stuff that didn’t work. It worked then and the internet hasn’t changed that, storytelling still works now. But there is a way to tell stories that will work for you and your business.

If you need help with any of the above email me on and let’s have a talk about how you can make your presentations WOW your audience.









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