Runners train for months to prepare themselves for an important race, yet all they’re doing is simple, repetitive exercises. Does that make the exercises unimportant? Of course not!
Along the same lines, below are some simple yet powerful “exercises” for honing your confidence, credibility, and audience connection immediately before your next high-stakes presentation opportunity.
Stretch your communication muscles.
Runners need to limber up before a race. Arrive early enough at your venue to walk around the presentation room and ensure that it is set up the way you want:
- Is there a platform? Where is it located?
- Are you restricted to the platform, or can you walk around?
- How will you build rapport and intimacy with listeners from your speaking position?
- Will you be lit while on stage? If so, how will that impact your ability to connect with listeners via eye contact?
Taking the time to get oriented will help you feel more in control and better prepared for the unexpected.
Warm up with a dry run.
Now that you’re familiar with your surroundings it’s time test your equipment. Check the microphone: figure out how to turn it off and on, and speak into it while a friend or colleague listens from various locations in the audience. If you’re using PowerPoint, are your slides in the proper sequence? Do they appear correctly on the venue’s display? Finally, rehearse your presentation aloud. If you don’t have time to go through the whole thing, pick out a handful of key sections — among them your opening and close — and practice until you’ve got them nailed.
Be sure that the host or organizer has a copy of the introduction you provided in advance (if not, give them the extra copy you brought with you). In Speaker’s Edge, author Martin Presse recommends formatting your intro in 18-point type, with each line a bullet point for easier reading. Finally, decide where you’ll be waiting during your introduction so you can walk briskly and enthusiastically to the stage.
Get an early lead.
Arriving early gives you the opportunity to greet attendees as they make their way into the room. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and graciously thank them for attending. Allow yourself time to make your way to your starting point, where you can listen intently to your introduction like a runner awaiting the start’s pistol. Approach the stage with relaxed self-confidence, and you’ll be ready to give a winning presentation.
Successful runners know it’s all about pace. By completing a pre-event ritual like the one described above, you’ll have the basics nailed and be able to concentrate on delivering a confident, well-paced presentation in which the audience is the ultimate winner.