Preparing for a presentation or speech – Part 2

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This article is the continuation of my guide to preparing for a presentation or speech. Part 1 covered what you should be doing in the weeks leading up to your public speaking assignment, this part focuses on what you should be doing in the days leading up to your speech or presentation as well as a few things to remember whilst you are speaking.

The night before:

Late night, rushed and anxious rehearsals the day before your presentation will only help to reinforce any anxiety you may have. Set yourself a cut-off point at which you will finish rehearsals the day before your presentation (say 3 or 5pm) and then distract yourself for the evening by doing something that you enjoy and that will take your mind off of your upcoming public speaking.

Top tip: Try to spend time with someone who is aware of your anxieties –they can help to distract you and will calm any irrational fears that might be forming in your mind with some pre-prepared rational statements!

The morning of your presentation:

Have a good breakfast and lots of water to help make you alert and ready to face the day. Caffeine optional!

Top tip: Wear something for your presentation that is appropriate, yet makes you feel confident. Wear something that you think you look great in. If you feel that you look good, you will notice a natural boost in your overall confidence and positive attitude. Look at it as wearing a public speaking suit of armour!

The minutes before your presentation:

Focus on what you are going to say, not how you might feel when saying it. If you can, have a chat with people that will be in the audience and get to know the room that you will be presenting in. Walk around it, touch every chair – get comfortable with your surroundings!

Top tip: If you begin to panic, find a window, look outside and take five deep and long breaths. This will help to slow your heart rate and change your concentration from nerves onto your breathing.

The seconds before your presentation:

Smile, breathe, look around at your audience and launch in to that first killer line that you’ve been rehearsing for weeks now.

Top tip: The chances are that you’ll be using short notes to help you remember and deliver your presentation. Never be afraid to have a slightly fuller set of notes behind you on a table or lectern. These act as a nice safety net should the worst happen and you forget your lines. Remember, your audience would rather see you take a few seconds to consult some notes than you not be able to express your messages to them correctly.

During your presentation:

Focus on smiling, making contact with your audience and talking slowly. Adrenaline often makes us think that we are speaking slower than we actually are.

Top tip: To keep a good pace to your speaking, count ‘one thousand’ after every sentence and ‘one thousand, two thousand, three thousand’ after every key point. This will also help to add emphasis to your key points and give your audience time to absorb them.

After your presentation:

Smile, be happy, milk up that applause and focus on the buzz that you are getting from having been ‘on fire’ and done well in your speaking.

Top tip: Always reward yourself after speaking. It gives you something to look forward to during all of those hours spent writing and rehearsing. Your reward should always be a positive goal to work towards.

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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