By Jim Wong, CPA | October 21, 2015


“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” – Somers White

In today’s corporate culture, there are various reasons working professionals might have to give a presentation. For accounting or finance professionals, you may have to report to leadership on your forecasting models or month-end numbers. You may also get asked to be a speaker at a conference for an association you belong to – depending on how active you are as a member. IT professionals may have to present to a group of their colleagues when rolling out a newly implemented network system.

Whatever the reason or topic, no matter the size of the audience, often times you can stress out over the thought of speaking to a crowd. Throughout my career, I have given a number of presentations for audiences of all sizes, and I have had my share of nerves along the way.

I know I’m not alone.

As I practiced my presentation skills, I began to find small ways to alleviate the stress that I felt before big meetings or speaking engagements. Recently, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review that included a few tips that I used to use, along with a few others. Here are 6 Tips to Reduce the Stress of Presenting that I found most helpful.

1. Value your presentation. 
It’s important to put the focus on the value of the information you’re sharing with your audience. You are presenting for a reason. So, there is a need for the data you are bringing to the table. Think of it as helping the business or giving the audience useful nuggets of information that will help them in their careers in some way. Feeling like you have a purpose may reduce the stress levels of presenting the information.

2. Exude confidence. 
Demonstrating self confidence in some capacity can get you a long way. As you develop your sense of self-confidence, you might begin to see that your presentation stress fades away. Why? For starters, the audience will be able to sense your confidence level by your tone, body language and flow. If they sense that you’re confident, they will be more inclined to absorb the information you’re giving them. This will make it easier on you while you’re presenting because the crowd will be engaged and paying attention.

3. Practice just enough.
A good unwritten rule is to practice your presentation three times—once after you finish preparing it; second, the day before your presentation; third, a few hours before the presentation. This allows you to run through your talk and chip away at stress with each run-through.

4. Divide and conquer. 
When it comes to longer presentations, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of material to cover. For instance, try to divide a 30-minute talk into smaller sections by thinking about it as three, 10-minute blocks. As you move through your presentation, you will begin to notice that smaller chunks of time are easier to manage. Also, be sure to designate time for audience questions and answers. This can cut away a big chunk of your time allotment.

5. Engage your audience. 
As you prepare your presentation, try to find ways to engage your audience. Use various audience-participation activities or plan for breakout discussions that are relevant to the topic you’re presenting. If you’re going for a really robust presentation, show video or other interactive content. Any type of engaging activities not only benefit your audience, but also relieve you of having to talk the entire time.

6. Remember to breathe. 
Studies show that simply breathing in and out, slowly and deeply before a presentation can balance out your stress levels. Therefore, take a moment to pause and breathe right before you begin your presentation. This will help you relax which is essential to a smooth presentation.

What are some other tips for reducing the stress of presenting? Comment below and let us know!


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