How to present without losing your nerve

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Presentation skills aren’t just for CEO’s and TV presenters. These are skills required in almost every job, and everyone can learn to become a better public speaker, we just don’t have the techniques – cue the Pitch Process. The Pitch Process, both professionally trained actresses who have been helping people like us for nearly ten years on how to stand up confidently, speak clearly and present in a way that makes people listen.

We were joined by Laura and Peta from the Pitch Proces for a two-hour interactive workshop full of tips and tricks to improve our presenting skills – who knew whispering could be such a useful way to prepare for presentations!

We learned lots of practical techniques, but here’s our summary of the top takeaways from the morning:

 

  1. Preparation is key. Know your material inside out but also prepare yourself inside out. Do whatever you need to feel ready to take on the day whether that’s meditation, a HIIT workout or putting on your favourite red lipstick.
  2. Presence and being present – occupying space is characteristic of confidence. Use your body language, stance, eye contact and energy to hold presence. Be aware of your natural habits (voice, posture, nervous ticks) and adapt them.
  3. Use your imaginary elements (like a light beam or an imaginary cape). External points of focus can transform your body language. You don’t need to use this technique throughout the duration of the presentation, it could work best just for your entrance.
  4. Occupy vocal space. Pace, pitch and volume can all be used with variety to create impact. Warm up your vocal cords. Try reading the presentation in a whisper to practice articulation to avoid stumbling over words.
  5. Pace and pause give authority, impact and resonance and can really make the audience listen. Use pauses to land an idea. Timing is flexible.
  6. The audience is your friend and they want you to succeed! Take them on a journey with you – guide them with questions and eye contact. Tell a story (see Seth Godin).
  7. Know your audience and adapt your behavior accordingly. Are they cats (quiet) or dogs (eager)? Try to think of intentions + actions e.g. make them relaxed + smile, make eye contact. Communication is ultimately about connection and relationship.
  8. Nerves – slowing and elongating the breath helps to relax the nervous system which in turn calms us, makes us sound relaxed, fuels our voice and helps to stimulate relaxed body language. Try visualizing sending a calming blue breath to your diaphragm or place your hand on your stomach to help to connect to the physical sensation.
  9. Release tension. Physically clench your fists and toes then suddenly open them out to feel a physical release and to help release tension.
  10. Name your demon. What are the common negative thoughts that pop into your head when presenting? Try to think of these and think of a response to them – break your demon down.

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