CEO Spotlight

The key to taking the fear out of presenting

Judith Beck

The fear people experience when they must do a presentation is so common – and it can make some people do just about anything to get out of it. Why are we so worried about getting up in front of people and talking about things we are the expert in? 

I understand why people fear the spur of the moment, ‘tell me about yourself’ type of presentation where you are put on the spot. Everyone feels uncomfortable when this happens and they are unprepared. But when you know you must do a presentation and you have been asked because you are the expert, what is the big deal – right?

It is a big deal for most of us and will affect us all at some stage. Just know that everyone goes through this kind of anxiety at some point during their career and there are things you can do to ensure a good experience.

Here are 6 tips that help me every time I present that are not the obvious ones: 

  1. Enjoy the experience – Immediately change your mindset from dreading the idea of presenting to being excited. Once I started doing this, it changed the way I looked at doing presentations and my stress levels went down. I think about the presentation as, ‘This will be fun, and I can’t wait to meet everyone and share my information’.
  2. Practise out loud – Things sound different when you say them out load (think singing) and see if that joke you think is hilarious sounds as funny when you hear it. It may feel uncomfortable but will make a huge difference.
  3. Show up early – I strongly suggest doing this for all presentations (even for internal boardroom presentations). I find showing up early and talking to people as they arrive very effective because then when I start my presentation, several friendly faces are already in the audience.
  4. Step away from the podium – If you really want to connect to your audience, step out from behind the podium. The podium becomes a barrier between you and the audience. It will take practice to do this – but when you do it once, you will never go back to the podium. (looking at Ted Talk videos will give you great examples)
  5. Dress as if everyone is looking at you, because they are! – Male or female, keep you outfit simple and professional. This is when you need to look at every aspect of what you have on. If you are going on stage, remember people are looking up, so give the short skirt a miss or your crazy Christmas socks when its July. Be your professional self and don’t let it distract from what you are saying.
  6. Limit your slides – I only use slides to keep my thoughts on track with 5 to 8 at the most and very few words on them. Slides with mistakes will reflect on you, so have them professionally done and checked by a fresh eye.

Above all, focus on why you are there and the message that you want to get across. You were asked to present because you have something to offer. This should make you feel excited. Embrace the opportunity and enjoy the moment.

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Judith Beck
Judith Beck is the author of No Sex at Work (Major Street Publishing), which shares the do’s and don’ts from her experience as founder of executive search firm, Financial Recruitment Group. Over her career, Judith has successfully placed thousands of candidates at senior to managing director level with some of Australia’s most successful financial institutions. Judith also founded Financial Executive Women (FEW) and is a sought-after speaker and media commentator. Judith Beck is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.