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Behind every successful presentation is a successful presenter. In our last post, we spoke of uncertainty being one of the factors that could damage a presentation that on paper – and on screen – looks impressive. In terms of impact and takeaway, what can turn a good presentation into an excellent one is often the persona of the presenter.

Some people are naturally good presenters. They are the ones with “public-speaking skills”, impressive word-power and confident body language. Sometimes, these assets can lead to complacency and over-confidence, which are as undesirable as uncertainty. And while a good team leader will invariably appoint the person most comfortable with the role of presenter, what about those situations where that role needs to be played by someone who is unsure of his/her presentation skills? A tech whiz or a genius at numbers may feel justifiably nervous about standing up and speaking to a roomful of people.

We believe that with a little help and lots of practice, you can steer an audience through a presentation with sufficient flair and finesse. After all, it’s not like you have to improvise! The presentation – in all its logic, substance and flow – is right there beside you. All you need to do is trust yourself as much as you trust those slides!

Let’s look at the situations we touched upon last time:­

  1. You are not the person who has put the presentation together, you have suddenly been asked to run with someone else’s presentation.

Ideally, you will have been taken quickly through the presentation before you enter the conference room. But life is rarely ideal! Imagine the worst-case scenario –  you’re going in cold. What then? Defensive beginnings like “This isn’t my work – I’m just filling in etc” won’t make either you or your audience feel any better.  One handy tip would be to slow down. Every time you open a new slide – pause, look, read-out and reflect as if – like the audience – you too need to absorb and understand before moving on. Remember, you would have been chosen to fill-in because you are already a confident presenter. Use your verbal skills to offset any gaps. Think on your feet. Keep it conversational. Encourage questions.

2. You are both the creator and the presenter, but you don’t have confidence as a speaker or, what is worse, you don’t know your facts and figures as well as you should.

Confidence comes with practice. If time permits, why not do more than one dry-run of your presentation with team-members and juniors as your supportive audience? Don’t try to be someone else, but do take the best of those around you and learn from them. If you’re clear, to the point, and convincing, half your battle is won. To address the second point, if you don’t have essential data at your fingertips, that will lead to erms and uhs during and after the presentation, as well as unnecessary pauses and awkwardness while you try to locate the relevant slides to refresh your memory. Keep your notes handy, so you can refer to them, if needs be. Do it coolly. That will help you come across as informed and at ease instead of flustered and fumbling.

3. You have put it together with your team, but you haven’t discussed everything and agreed on your stance beforehand

This could be catastrophic, and can easily be avoided by ensuring that you don’t over-ride, argue or contradict each other around the conference table. Uncertainty among a team is not at all a good sign for those hoping to work with you. Arrive at a common ground before you enter the meeting, so that the ground isn’t cut from under your feet later!

To recap, you can avoid the pitfalls of uncertainty by

  • Trusting yourself
  • Knowing your stuff
  • Rehearsing and discussing with your colleagues
  • Agreeing on strategies beforehand
  • Learning from the masters

Train yourself to be confident. The best presenters can vouch for this: if you don’t show it, no one will know you’re nervous! So go on – make a go of it!