Presenting is a skill that requires a great deal of preparation and practice. It is also something that does not come naturally to most people. In fact, many people are terrified at the thought of public speaking, yet a successful presentation is dependent on the speaker appearing calm, confident, and in control. Even with extensive preparation, unforeseen challenges can arise, quickly derailing a presentation and throwing the speaker off their game. How, then, can one navigate these challenges and avoid getting flustered in front of their audience? Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems that presenters face and how to overcome them in order to deliver a successful presentation.
Problem 1: You suffer from pre-presentation anxiety
This is perhaps the most common problem faced by any presenter. The thought of speaking in public can be extremely scary for many people. They may be fine for the weeks leading up to the presentation but then panic in the moments before their talk begins. The key to managing nerves and anxiousness is to be well prepared and to find ways to calm yourself down. The more a speaker practices and rehearses their presentation, the more confident they will be in their delivery. In addition to preparation, presenters should also practice deep breathing exercises to calm their nerves and get oxygen flowing throughout the body.
Problem 2: You don’t know which content to put on your slides
Many presenters know their content quite well, but they have a hard time narrowing it down to create their slides. It is important for presenters not to overwhelm their audience with too much content while also sticking to their time allotment. Transforming thoughts into engaging slides can be a challenge, but condensing your thoughts into key points is essential.
Problem 3: Failure to engage the audience
Many presenters rehearse their content over and over and know exactly what to say, but they forget all about engaging the audience. Although they have their material down, they fail to build a rapport and connect with the audience. Unfortunately, this lack of engagement can be the demise of any presentation. To fix this problem, presenters need to spend time meeting and greeting audience members beforehand. They also need to smile, make eye contact, and nod to audience members throughout the presentation to engage them in the conversation.
Problem 4: Poor body language
Audiences will quickly get bored by a speaker who simply stands behind a podium throughout the presentation. Similarly, they will easily be distracted by a speaker who fidgets nervously with their hands or makes awkward gestures. Stiff body language can detract from the speaker’s message. Thus, it is important for speakers to move around the space to create energy and keep the audience interested. They should also avoid putting hands in pockets, playing with a marker or notes, using unnecessary filler words (ah’s, uhm’s, ok’s), speaking monotone, or standing still the entire time.
Problem 5: Lack of energy or enthusiasm
A great speaker is able to convince their audience by their energy and enthusiasm. All too often, however, this component is missing from the presentation. How can you get your audience excited about your presentation if you aren’t even excited about it? Speakers can increase enthusiasm by moving around the stage, interacting with the audience, and using voice inflection to highlight key points.
Problem 6: Losing their place or forgetting what to say next
When speakers are nervous, it’s easy to lose their train of thought during the presentation. Things like a technical difficulty, a challenging question, or a yawning audience member can easily distract the speaker causing them to get lost and forget what they were saying. If this happens, it’s important not to get flustered but to simply take a deep breath and regain composure. It can also be helpful to use notes or reference your slides in order to get back on track.
Problem 7: Not interacting with the audience
Audience members do not want to be spoken “at” but rather spoken “with.” It can be difficult to keep the audience’s attention but one of the best ways to do so is by making them part of the presentation. Find creative ways to interact with the audience through polls, Q&A, games, stories, or other visuals. Not only will this make the presentation more memorable, but it will keep the audience attentive and interested.