The strategies in the next three posts have come from training sessions that I have led, courses that I have attended and material that I have gleaned from books. Possibly, not all the strategies here will work for you; we’re all different after all. However, I am confident that you will find a number of strategies that will work for you. Please do let me know what you tried and how you got on!

While the title might indicate that this post is primarily for those presenting in front of an audience the strategies here will also work for any person performing such as those singing or playing in a concert or exam and no doubt many other situations too.

I am going to present the strategies over the next three posts. Today’s post will focus on the first three.

What are the first three strategies?

1. The audience is on your side
2. Know your material / know its contents
3. Practise in front of an audience


1. The audience is on your side

In fairness this might not always be the case and certainly won’t be if you’re a politician attempting to persuade doubting voters to vote for you! The reality though is that few of us will face situations where the audience is quite so hostile. And if you do, point 2 becomes even more important!

In the majority of cases the audience is on your side. They may well have paid to hear you, you may be their relative or friend and they may well be genuinely interested in what you’re saying or doing. Audiences are vastly more forgiving than we think, don’t notice what we do and want us to do our best. Focus on the audience working for you. Take due diligence of point 2 (and 6 in the next post) in particular though otherwise they might stop being on your side!

2. Know your material / know its contents

Fail to plan; plan to fail. It’s as simple as that. There are an incredibly small number of people who can perform on stage without rehearsing. In my opinion no one should do this, however good they are. Steve Jobs, one of the best presenters in history and someone sadly missed by many including me, rehearsed and rehearsed until he not only knew the material in terms of fully comprehending it but barely if at all needed notes when actually presenting it. He knew not only what slide was coming next but crucially its content too. It’s essential that you not only comprehend what you’re going to be saying or performing but you have a good grasp of what’s coming next in your presentation.

Too many presenters or performers have learnt this lesson the hard way. There’s only so much that you can control; IT in the form of laptops, projectors and memory sticks has a funny habit of failing just when we need it most. Just think how impressed your already on your side audience will be when you can carry on without the slides! Remember, you are presenting, not your slides. Far too many people rely on PowerPoint to do the presenting when the audience came to hear you present. Practise your presentation, or recital!, without your material several times at least. OK, it might not be flawless but if it’s ‘pretty much there’ you know that you grasp and can present your material as well as manage an effective solution if software, hardware or other failures occur.

3. Practise in front of an audience

There’s one thing being able to perform it in front of yourself; it’s quite another when it comes to performing to the audience. If I had a pound (dollar) for the number of times I’ve heard, “I was fine when I practised on my own but when I performed in front of others it all went wrong!” I’d be a rich man. We can do little about failing technology; we can do a lot about failing nerves. Simply practising in front of an audience (it’s highly likely that they will probably be in the last performance audience as well, smiling away – see point 1) will help give you the feel of what it will be like on the day. Notice, like, it won’t be exactly the same. However, we need to start somewhere and practising in this way will help you develop and control your nerves.

While not as effective as performing to an audience (see the quote above), if there’s no one to practise with, performing in front of a mirror will help you to control your anxieties. A mirror also allows you to see what the audience sees (facial expressions and your body language in general) and could give valuable feedback of things that you can change for the better.

Next post will explore three more techniques for overcoming presentation fear. Let me know what happens when you try these techniques by posting comments below. Until next time!

Advertisements