Time to present in front of an actual group of people again. You sweating? Have knots in your stomach? Head throbbing?
More than likely, something like that will happen at just the thought of presenting! Most people are NOT comfortable or confident speaking in front of an audience.
Whether it’s you doing an HR presentation or another leader speaking to any group in your company, it can be nerve-racking.
The irony is, that’s the exact time leaders must be comfortable and confident: The audience judges you within 30 seconds, according to research published in The Harvard Business Review. If you aren’t “on,” people won’t listen, believe or retain what you have to share.
You’re being judged
“Whether you’re presenting on a … call or speaking to your entire organization in a town hall meeting, you’re being judged on your confidence and competence, not just your content,” says Carmine Gallo, author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, “and the way you appear and how you sound matters.”
Here are six strategies to help you look and sound confident (until you actually feel it in the spotlight):
Narrow your scope
When it comes presentations, prepare for them like you should prepare for a vacation: Unpack half of the stuff in your suitcase and double the money in your wallet.
To be precise, cut your presentations down to three “sticky statements,” say experts at Ethos3. With just three solid points – and the supporting evidence – you won’t get completely derailed (and lose confidence) if you slip off track.
More importantly, people remember information best in doses of three. Your audience won’t get bored, will retain the information and find you poised and professional.
Replace long with short words
Similarly, shorten your language. People who use long sentences and jargon don’t sound smart. They sound pretentious – and that’s no way to make a good impression on a group.
Do the hard work of simplifying complex details for your audience. You’ll speak naturally and gain credibility if you use simple language.
Pace your delivery
The best way to sound confident and comfortable is to gain control over your vocal quality. Changing your tone – such as adding enthusiasm at important points – helps.
Delivering at a comfortable listening pace creates rapport. Speak too fast and you’ll lose them. You want to talk just slightly slower than a natural, face-to-face conversation.
Rehearse while stressed
High-performing athletes often practice under stress to create conditions similar to competition.
Same should go for professionals in training to present. Get a few people to watch your “dress rehearsal” so you know what it’s like to have all eyes (not just yours in a mirror) on you.
Audiences – even colleagues and employees who know you – size up speakers as soon as they stand in front of them. You need to look confident to come across as confident in presentations.
Rule of thumb: Dress 25% better than the audience – appropriate for the group, just slightly more polished.
Show courage with an “open posture” – both palms up above the waist, making natural gestures. Avoid standing behind a podium or with hands in your pockets or by your sides.