Preparing to give a presentation is a very personal experience. We all have our own routines, tics, and superstitions that help us to feel confident and ready to speak to a crowd. Perhaps you need twenty minutes of solitary silence before taking the stage, or you’re convinced that an extra shot of espresso prior to addressing the partners will give you some extra pep.
Whatever your pre-talk routine might be, it’s worth considering what you do and why, and finding places for improvement. Here are three steps you can add to your private prologue in order to ensure success on your next presentation.
Visualize your success and the audience response
Rather than focusing on what might go wrong, spend time imagining victory at the end of your presentation. Dig deep, and bring to mind the multiple sensations you’ll feel when you’ve spoken your last words: relief, a lingering flow of adrenaline, pride, maybe slightly sweaty, the audience applause ringing in your ears.
By getting yourself in this mindset of success at the beginning, you’ll be starting off on a high note, which makes the good seem great and the less-than-good hardly noticeable.
Bob Allen from Dale Carnegie of Central Ohio is a big believer in this tactic: “Before every presentation, I visualize the audience, their reaction, the impact I want to have on them and the warm, happy conclusion of the event,” he says, adding that “just before I address the group, I shadow box a bit to eliminate some of the nervous tension.”
Establish a positive mindset
Dale Carnegie once wrote that “our mental attitude is the X factor that determines our fate,” and he couldn’t have been more right. This advice is similar to the previous point, but rather than pinpointing a specific moment in time, the goal is to be positive about the world in general.
The way you achieve this attitude will vary depending on what makes you personally happy, but could include watching a funny video, listening to an inspirational podcast, or spending some time out in nature.
Corey Perlman, a professional speaker and NSA certified presenter, establishes his positivity by interacting with his audience before he ever takes the stage. “If possible, I like to walk the room and talk to people,” he says. “I get some great feedback about what they’re looking to gain from the presentation and some specific challenges I can address during my talk.”
Perlman also recommends some physical preparation in order to cement his optimism. “Like Bob Allen, I like to move a bit to get the blood flowing and even do some stretching,” he says. “The last thing I do before jumping on stage is smile. I feel so fortunate to get to be with them for that period of time, and I want my face to show my appreciation.”
Give yourself a pep-talk
A great way to achieve both of the above pieces of advice is to talk yourself into it. Tell yourself how great your presentation will go, remind yourself of how well your trial run went, and pump yourself up with your favourite motivational quote. Talk out loud or to a mirror if it helps, just make sure to keep the dialogue positive and upbeat.
Remember Dale Carnegie’s advice: “By talking to yourself every hour of the day, you can direct yourself to think thoughts of courage and happiness, thoughts of power and peace.” Keep up an inner monologue of positivity until the moment you step on stage, and from there you’ll be ready to dive right into the best presentation you’ve ever given.
“Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident.” – Dale Carnegie