Bringing a presentation in front of coworkers and superiors is something everyone enjoys. In fact, many hold the opposite emotions related to speaking in front of a professional audience. There is sound reasoning for this as there are many different elements which can influence how a presentation goes. The right words, PowerPoint slides, physical appearance, and even tone of voice all factor into how a presenter is received by their audience. While those in the front of the room may not be cognitively aware of these factors, there is a good reason why they are feeling anxious or stressed in the moments leading up to speaking. People want to be accepted in front of their peers and when they know they are under scrutiny those feelings are heightened immensely. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld summed up these feelings, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”
All this being said, just because something is intimidating does not mean it is not reality. It is probably safe to assume that everyone will present for their job at some point during their career. So, how does one look and sound confident while presenting? We connected with ten different business experts to gain their insight on this.
Avoid excessive language
Patricio Paucar is the Co-founder and Chief Customer Officer of Navi, a brand offering the perfect mobile phone and plan for everyone. He believes actively working to eliminate words which are not impactful within the presentation is a wise decision.
“Every presentation should be built with the intention of grabbing the attention of the listener. In my experience, the fastest way to close peoples ears is to pack your presentation with words that have no intent. Words such as ‘like’ or ‘um’ absolutely fall into this category but people don’t often realize how excessive their vocabulary can be at times. Write out what you intend to say and see if there’s a more succinct way to get your points across. Not only will this better inform your listeners, it will allow you to be in front of them for a shorter period.”
Poised specializes in free speaking coaches for online meetings. Their COO and Co-founder, Soumya Mohan, suggests that being more physically animated during a presentation is a surefire way to win over the opinions of those in attendance.
“We’ve all seen the presenter who gets up there and doesn’t move a muscle. That right there is enough to put me to sleep. How am I supposed to be engaged with a topic when the presenter themselves isn’t engaged? Take some time to try a few things in front of the mirror while speaking. What are your points of emphasis? Hand gestures do wonders for highlighting these moments. Talking with your hands is a real skill and it does require some trial and error but it is very powerful.”
When preparing for a presentation, it is easy to get caught up in a personal thought process regarding the situation. But putting oneself in the shoes of those viewing the presentation is often helpful. UnHide is a business providing a vegan lifestyle brand for your couch. Their Founder and CEO, Leo Livshetz, considers this exercise valuable.
“Think about all the thoughts you’ve had while presenting in the past. I’m sure it was something to the effect of ‘I don’t know what these people are thinking about me’ or ‘They’re incredibly bored right now.’ Now consider the thoughts you’ve had when watching a presentation. They’re much different. Often you don’t know what the presenting person will describe or you’re more inclined to hear them because they come with presentable knowledge. Other people think along the same lines and this perspective should be an encouragement.”
Brandon Lurie is the Marketing Director of Y Meadows, a brand offering AI customer service automation. He advises others to make a point of running through a presentation ahead of time to gain a better handle on it.
“As a presenter, your job is to inform your coworkers of whatever topic the presentation is based on. This means that you should be giving them the information rather than reading it for yourself or stumbling through it. In some ways, presenting is a bit of a performance act. No performer takes the stage without practicing their routine beforehand. Their aim, like yours should be, is to be flawless. By going over your presentation again and again you’ll be ready to perform and relay information.”
Vint specializes in wine investments & stocks. Their CEO, Nick King, believes an attitude of authenticity is the best way to demonstrate poise as it is more convincing.
“Unless you’re a quality actor, people will see through any facade that you may attempt to put on for a presentation. We’re wired to detect anything that feels false. This is why you should be yourself when speaking in front of a group. Doing so will give you a mental boost as you know who you are. You don’t have to commit any brain power to keeping up an act and you don’t have to trick people. Only you can be you and people will appreciate that. There’s nothing more appealing than being genuine.
Not every moment of silence during a presentation needs to be filled with speech. While the presenter may feel like this causes a lapse, an interval of quiet can be compelling. Mode is a business providing CBD products. Their Creative Director, Jorge Vivar, proposes this.
“If you’ve ever been to a live reading or theater act, you’ve surely noticed that between important sentences, the speaker pauses. This is intentionally done in order to add dramatic effect to whatever is being said. This practice is something worth incorporating into a presentation. Find the points you’re trying to highlight the most and design your spiel around these with a pause. Your associates will come away with a better understanding of your material.”
Philip Akzhar is the CEO of Arka, a brand offering eco-friendly packaging and sustainable boxes. He advises others to make an effort to exhibit a positive physical demeanor.
“Good posture is about much more than keeping your back healthy. To many, it’s a nonverbal communication method which expresses not only knowledge of the subject but confidence as well. This process starts with keeping your head and eyes raised as it’s harder for people to understand and relate to someone who doesn’t look at them. This will also allow your voice to carry further because it is being directed towards who you’re addressing. Remember not to slouch or lean while speaking as well.
Cabrella specializes in custom shipping insurance. Their President, Benjamin Meskin, considers focusing on breathing before and during a presentation to be a key method for looking and sounding confident.
“It’s very normal to experience uneasiness prior to or in the middle of a presentation. Everyone’s been through it and come out the other side but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to conquer. Nerves do more than just cloud your mind as it’s been shown to put strain on upper body muscles. As you’re getting ready to speak, set aside some time to gather yourself mentally and physically by taking deep breaths. You should check in with your breathing throughout the presentation as it’s a simple thing that can be overlooked. Your brain and body work much better on the proper amount of oxygen.”
Know the crowd
When delivering a presentation, forgetting who the audience is a very easy thing to do. It is imperative to recognize who is in the crowd and what they are there for. Box Genie is a business providing your own design boxes and packaging. Their GM, Sean Doherty, believes reminding this thinking is important.
“One thing to keep in mind is that the topic of your presentation is not you unless you’re in a very odd situation. When you’re overwhelmed by a public speaking engagement, anxiety can cause you to begin to drift away from the topic by talking about yourself. Or, you could begin to simplify your speech to the point where the message isn’t conveyed. The crowd is there to understand, not become bored or lost. It’s your job to catch their attention. ”
Ryan Rockefeller is the Co-founder of Cleared, a brand offering online allergy solutions. He suggests emphasizing clear speech to oneself in order to communicate effectively.
“All the emotions that go into presenting can result in speeding through your words. This not only hurts the audience’s perception of you, there may be info lost in the chaos. One of the ways to remember this is by recording yourself giving a trial run of the presentation. Listen back and see if you’re keeping a good pace. Focus on clearly enunciating every word in an unhurried manner.”
Speaking publicly to peers or superiors requires tact, effort, planning, and intuition. Without doing these things, a presentation can quickly begin to feel like being eaten alive. Essentially, good things come to those who prepare. Film composer John Powell, put it best, “Communication works for those who work at it.”