STOP STRESSING: Three tips to stay stressless while presenting [By Andrew Ford]

Do you love presenting in front of people? Standing in the spotlight, all eyes on you, hanging on every word, just waiting on some universal truth to spill forth from your mouth.  Umm, err, ahh....Phew it's enough to make an Eskimo sweat.

If you are like 90% of people who count the fear of public speaking right up there, loosing your smart phone, these quick three tips might be helpful.

Stop Stressing

Tip 1. Control what you can control: 

'Ahhh..deep breath' he says, holding his chin and nodding knowingly!  Unfortunately this isn't my line, I got it from Confucius at Content World 2010, who said, "when presenting using a Macbook Air always bring spare VGA and HDMI adaptor cables". Powerful stuff. I know he said it because I was in the audience. He nailed it BTW!

Half the presentation is won before you even enter the room. It's called preparation and it is kinda important to ensure you hit the mark with your material. The best presenter in the world, talking about an amazing topic is useless if the audience doesn't care about it.

Let me illustrate with an example. A speaker friend of mine did a paid gig and thought his material about bucket lists would rock. He had this great part where he would get the audience to draw 80 squares and cross them out for how old they were - making them realise that life was short. Unfortunately, the audience were retirees with an average age of 75. "Add another row" he said! Opps...

Ensure you know who the company is, the main executives in the room, the audience, the objectives, the room set up, AV requirements (always bring your own stuff) and of course build your own slides so you know them backwards.  I have a little form on my website (click here) for the people hiring me to fill in. It helps me to get prepared. Feel free to copy it :)

When you arrive on the day, get there super early. Get to know the audience, chat with them about their business and needs. See the room, get a feel for the space and set up. 

Nothing is worse that arriving in a rush and having to go straight into your presentation. I once was running late for a University lecture at RMIT. I ran across town and got there just in time, breathing heavy and sweating. Lucky for me they were filming this presentation for their overseas campuses. Imagine this, I walk in and there are 40 MBA students looking at me, lights are beaming heat and highlighting every pore, I have to set up with everyone watching and trying to subtly wipe the sweat from my brow and seem cool. Not! Seemed to go ok but not the ideal situation.

Tip 2. Less is more

Another pearl of wisdom! I know, right. I learnt this from Gandhi who rocked Social Media World in 2014 and said to me "Too much powerpoint killed a good story". Profound. 

Visual aids are there to help the audience follow your story, not to tell the story. That's your job. No one remembers all the facts and information from presentations, we might remember 2 or 3 points. But we can retell a story if it is engaging, funny and heart felt. Take your material and make a story from it! It doesn't matter if it is a business presentation, you can still reinforce the points you made with examples and anecdotes. 

Remember that every time you transition a slide, the audience is taking their attention off you and looking at the screen. What a perfect time to break their concentration and let them just have a quick peak at Instagram...

Tip 3. It's about them, not you!

This gold came from an unlikely source. Sometimes it's hard to trust Memes on Facebook but this one looked reliable. It was from one of my favourite speakers Abraham Lincoln and he posted that: "To communicate effectively, stand in the shoes of those who listen." Good one Abe! 

Remember why you are at the front of the room, it's to share a message with others. Don't stay in your head and follow your own movie reel. Be present with the audience and focus your energy and attention to them. See how they are reacting and adjust your material accordingly. This only comes when you have prepared well, so revise Tip 1

The measure of a good presenter is how much the audience was impacted. It's emotional impact and recall of the content. Make it about them! Engage them with questions, get them to do activities, encourage them to think and tell stories that make them feel. 

Everyone likes to talk about themselves, and they might be interested in your story. But remember to help them apply this learning from yours to their own lives. That's the key.

Well there you have it, twenty years of learning in 500 words. If you follow my quick 3 tips to presenting, you will stop stressing about presenting and embrace it as the opportunity to build your brand and share valuable thoughts when you are next asked to step up the microphone. 

As a last thought from my good friend Thor when I was last in Asgard "the power is in your hands" he quipped. I think he was talking about a hammer or something, but you get the idea.