Every presentation is about empowering the audience with your ideas. To be effective, even the greatest ideas must be presented in a way that is mindful of who is listening, putting their needs first.
Here is how anyone can establish benchmarks when building a successful presentation with the audience in mind.
Take time to learn about your audience. In your first week of preparation, identify memorable content that will align with your audience’s needs. It’s important to emphasize the story you are trying to tell the audience, even if that story revolves around data points. Use this week to collect and organize the content so you understand your presentation’s order and flow. This will set you up as a relaxed and prepared speaker that naturally foges a connection with your audience when the big moment comes.
The second week can be devoted to crafting content, building interesting slides and making sure you’re prepared with the practical things. These can range from what you’re going to wear to the technical details of the venue where you will be presenting. This stage is about mastering the details, so that there aren’t any surprises the day of the presentation.
The third week leading up to your presentation can be summed up in one word: practice! While I suggest you get to know your content intimately, I don’t recommend scripting every word. This is a great time to create thought bubbles, or key talking points, which will ideally come across as conversational, weaving a story for your audience to follow. Rather than adding to the presentation during this week, think about the thought bubbles as an opportunity to smooth everything out and really get an idea of what your key points are.
As the big day approaches, I suggest using the fourth week to let it all sink in. Think back on all the work you have already put in and how it has helped you get to this point. More importantly, where are you now? What are your crucial ideas and where do they appear as important moments in your presentation? This is where you find the energy that will afford you a real connection with your audience.
The day is almost upon you and the inevitable anxiety begins to settle in. It’s completely normal to be nervous before a presentation, but nervousness is really only heightened energy…It’s neither good or bad. If you have too much energy, it makes it that much harder to be present and grounded while you are delivering your presentation. Here are some ways to manage this energy the day before your presentation to ensure you are calm, cool and collected day of:
● Exercise that Excess Energy: Release extra energy by getting active. This could mean going for a brisk walk or doing some quick push-ups. Working out gives your body the chance to burn off energy, leaving you refreshed and ready to settle in when it comes time to walk on stage.
● Use Music to Set the Mood: To kick those pre-speaking jitters, try listening to your favorite tunes. They will instantly lift you up and calm you down.
● Eat Healthy and Keep Hydrated: Help yourself by eating a nice meal and drinking plenty of water before your event. Caffeine actually dehydrates you, so when you get even a little bit nervous, your mouth may get slightly dry. Avoid this by drinking less caffeine and by having plenty of water on hand to keep you hydrated.
Now is not the time to develop your presentation, but rather it’s an opportunity to put yourself in the right state of mind. Fortunately, there are some surefire strategies for calming yourself down anytime you feel like your nerves are getting the best of you.
● Deep Breaths: Every time you breathe deeply, you instantly slow down your heartbeat and you focus your mind. Try and expand your lower belly by breathing in through your nose and then slowly exhaling through your mouth.
● Holding the Neuro: Hold the neurovascular points on your forehead. These points are on your forehead directly above your eyes and affect blood flow through the entire body. Holding these points will bring blood to the thinking brain and helps focus while feeling stressed. You can either put one of your hands on the entire forehead, or you can put the fingertips of both hands on the bumps and your thumbs on your temples, near your eyes. Stay in this position, breathing deeply for a few minutes.
● Connect With Audience: Your presentation begins the moment you walk into the building. If you have done your work, you are prepared. You don’t need to review your notes. Instead take those pre-speaking moments to connect with your audience. Greet them. Introduce yourself. Go grab a drink of water and say hello. You will create positive energy with the audience by being engaging right from the start.
The best presentations are the ones that connect with audience and take them along for the ride. Stories will paint a picture in people’s minds, anecdotal evidence will stay with them while text-heavy slides and recitation will not. When you take the time to prepare, with the right tools, you will certainly rock your next talk.
More About Alexa Fischer
Alexa Fischer teaches personal and career development on Udemy. She’s a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, and a business consultant, working with CEOs and employees alike on how to connect with your audience. She’s also appeared in television shows such as Bones and NCIS. Most recently she launched Wishbeads, a jewelry company committed to helping people make wishes, do the work and watch them come true.
Originally published at medium.com