How to Trick Yourself Into Presentation Confidence
A prodigious combination of unique experience and accrued knowledge has bestowed you with valuable insights. It’d be foolish to keep them to yourself.
It’s time to share what you know.
At some point in your life, it’s likely you’ve been called upon to communicate information before a live audience. And it’s bound to happen again.
Are your palms getting sweaty? You’re not alone. Join the legions of glossophobes from all over the globe.
Word power: glossophobia—the fear of public speaking or speaking in general
Giving presentations freaks people out.
Your chest pounds. Your stomach turns. The mouth goes dry. These symptoms of anxiety arrive before the presentation begins and make it difficult to communicate effectively.
Forget about persuading an audience. Forget about articulating your ideas clearly. You just want to make it out alive.
Next time will be different.
Next time, you will say exactly what you mean to say because you will be fearless. Your confidence will convince others to get on board with your objectives. Every presentation will be an opportunity to share what you know. You’ll knock ‘em out.
Here’s the part one of our guide.
Welcome to Part 1 of the Fearless Guide to Persuasive Presentations, a 3-part series. Parts 2 explains how to handle highly unlikely “worst case presentation scenarios.” Part 3 addresses communicating complex ideas effectively to audiences across boardrooms, during online meetings and conference calls.
Today, you’ll learn how to present with confidence—even if you need to do a little self-trickery. Lifehacker contributor Dan Shipper says:
“Ultimately, the only cure for insecurity is experience.”
You can practice having confidence until you feel it for real. The more success you have during presentations, the more confidence you’ll gain. It’ll just get easier and easier. But you have to start somewhere.
Try these tricks.
Tighten the deadline
Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
He was talking about the technique behind his classically terrifying horror films, but you’ll find it applies to your fear of giving presentations.
When you have time to immerse your thoughts in what could go horribly wrong during your presentation, you build up a mountain of fear.
The only way to make it over the mountain is to cut a path right through it. Give yourself a tight deadline to prepare. Busy yourself with crafting slides and rehearsing. Leave little to no time to obsess over the details. While bringing it all together, revel in your time-management mastery.
This creates a new, healthier pressure: the pressure to perform well on a tight deadline. If you’ve given yourself just the right amount of time, you’ll feel confident in your ability to get it handled on deadline.
Fear is replaced by confidence, with extra bonus points for increasing presentation productivity.
Set realistic standards
It’s easier to be confident when the desired outcome of a task feels within reach. So when you set your standards at an impossible level, let’s say to solve world hunger or convert the executives to veganism, you’re preparing yourself for pitiful presentation self-esteem.
Write down 1-3 desired (and perfectly realistic) outcomes for your presentation and make an action plan for accomplishing each. If you find yourself grasping at ideas, it might be better to leave some behind for next time. Remember, you’re on a deadline.
“Professionals make communication and presentation look easy,” notes Inc.com contributor Kevin Daum in “How to be Confident Even When You’re Not.” He says, “That’s because there’s a lot of rigorous rehearsal behind that performance.”
It’s so simple, but it’s true: the better prepared you are for a presentation, the more confidence you’ll have.
No need to memorize your presentation. Knowing the first few lines might ease some stress, but it won’t save you from tech equipment mishaps or unexpected audience commentary.
In his article, “What Happens to Our Brains When We Have Stage Fright,” startup entrepreneur Mikael Cho suggests:
“You want to get to a point where all you have to focus on is connecting with the audience and enhancing the delivery of your story, rather than worrying about what slide is coming up next or where you need to stand on stage.”
Know your material = insta-confidence.
Confront your WCS
Your Worst Case Scenario (WCS) is the nightmare [“What if my mind goes blank / everyone realizes I’m an idiot / I fart onstage]” that keeps you fearful of speaking in front of other people. Instead of playing it over and over again in your head, write it down.
Describe it in all its tragic glory, down to the last humiliating detail. Now read it over. Does it look like a rational outcome? Read it again. Read it until it becomes bland.
Eventually, you’ll be so bored by your WCS, it won’t have a shred of clout in your mind while preparing for your presentation.
Distribute the agenda in advance
Tackle your next presentation believing the audience already has the scoop on what you plan to talk about. Even if they didn’t read the agenda you deliver 1-2 days beforehand, you’ll never know. It’s all about taking the steps to eliminate the fears that stand in the way of confidence. Namely, “What if nobody understands my ideas?”
Again, bonus points to you for being extra productive.
Book another presentation
So you just survived a work presentation? Get over it. Nobody is writing an epic screenplay about the experience. It’s time to book another one.
You’re going to get better every time, so take every opportunity to practice. Eventually, you won’t need tricks to feel presentation-confident. You’ll own it for yourself.
Have any other presentation tips and tricks to share? Share them below.