The knot of dread in your stomach. The sweaty palms. The blank piece of paper, wondering where to start.
Any of these sound familiar? Whether it’s a presentation to a room full of people or filming a YouTube video, having to talk to a live (or virtual) audience can strike fear into even the most confident of us.
If you feel nervous, you’re not alone. Surveys have shown that a fear of public speaking is right up at the top of the list, with only the loss of a family member a more terrifying thought.
But it’s something many of us will have to do – in an interview, for your first go on Instagram TV or if you’re invited to speak at an event.
Presentation success starts with knowing what you’re going to say, then putting it together in an engaging and memorable way, so that your audience will be hanging on to every word.
Learn how to prepare for a presentation
To own that stage or grow your business, read on for my top tips to perfectly prepare your presentation content. They’re based on my experience as a marketing and communications strategist.
What’s the objective?
Many people write a presentation and then only when it’s done, they wonder
‘what do I want to say?’
Thinking like a marketer, the objective should always come first.
- What do you want to achieve afterwards?
- How will I know if it’s been a success?
For you to achieve a brilliant result from your presentation, you must first know what that looks like.
Know your audience
When I write a campaign brief, one of the first questions I will ask is
‘who am I talking to?’
Only then can you put yourself in the shoes of your audience and start to think about
- what’s important to them,
- what do they care about,
- what’s their point of view, a
- nd what are their beliefs or fears
and shape your content accordingly
What’s the one single message?
If you can get laser-focused on this (one thing, not three things!) it will allow you to get it across at the beginning and capture people’s attention. One way to practise this is to imagine that you have only 15 seconds to present. What is the thing that will make your audience think
‘I want to listen to find out more about that’
What’s in it for them?
Rather than thinking about what you want to present, reframe it.
As an example, not many of us would feel motivated to work with a coach if it was sold on features
- looking at your values,
- getting to know your authentic self,
- understanding your limiting beliefs
As humans, we’re much more interested in the end result
(‘yes, I want that!’)
rather than the process
(‘ugh, that sounds scary/difficult/uncomfortable – no thanks’).
So, put the result upfront
‘in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to show you how to communicate more effectively with your boss, so that you can confidently negotiate that pay rise’
and then you’ll have their attention from the get-go.
Bring your words to life
If I’m working on an advertising campaign, I’m always looking for something that will have an immediate impact and grab people’s attention.
Presenting is no different. Bring in an anecdote or story to make it more human, or break down a number in a way that makes it more relatable (for example, people in the travel industry might find it easier to remember what 52,500 people look like if it were positioned as ‘that’s enough to fill 100 A-380 aeroplanes’)
Start, middle and call to action
Just like any strong narrative, your presentation should have
- a definitive start (tip: even if you don’t memorise anything else, know your opening line – a strong start will set you off on the right track!). You should consider signposting (saying what you’re going to cover),
- think about the middle – your juiciest content –
- and create an end which should include a wrap-up of the key points. In marketing we use something known as a ‘call to action’: What do you want people to do? This might be ‘sign up to get regular emails with weekly tips’ or ‘my next event will give you all of the insider info on how to crush the negative voice in your head and go after your dreams – you can find out more here’. Whatever you end on, frame it from the point of view of the listener, and what the benefits are to them – this gives them a reason to pay attention and engage with you afterwards
Practise makes perfect
Marketers will often road test an idea or product with a focus group, to get feedback and so that they can refine it before it is launched.
You can follow the same principle when presenting, either by having a run-through beforehand to a friend or family member (this may feel cringy, but there are huge confidence-boosting benefits of knowing on the day that you’ve already done it). You could also do this in front of a mirror or even by recording yourself on your phone. Get feedback, see what lands well, change what doesn’t and you’ll feel much more confident when it’s time for the real thing.
About the Author
Josie Shepherd is a life and career coach. She works with women in their 30s who want to redefine what success means for them, whether that’s through a career change, taking a sabbatical to travel the world or making the leap to launch a small business. Using her unique experience – an award-winning career in marketing and communications and years of experience ‘side hustling’ as a performing orchestral musician, she has all the tools to help you rewrite your next chapter so that you can live a life that makes you want to jump out of bed every morning. To find out more about her coaching packages, connect with her on Instagram @josieshepherdcoaching