While many of us feel nervous about speaking to a large group of people, there are a number of ways to drive away presentation jitters. One key is take the focus off of yourself and think about your audience: they’ll be there to hear important information from you, and they want the time invested in listening to you to be well spent.
So what does your audience want from you? Keep these in mind before your next speech:
- They want relevance – Whatever the topic you’re addressing, the people in your audience want to know how it relates to them. This means the more you know about them, the better your presentation will be. So in addition to practicing your words and gestures before the big day, take some time to learn more about who exactly you’ll be speaking to and how their interests relate to the subject you’ll be talking about.
- They want to learn something new – By asking a few questions about your audience ahead of time, you can also get a better grasp of their understanding of the issue you’ll be discussing. This way, you can provide them with new facts, new insights or new perspectives without talking down to them or talking over their heads.
- They want you to deliver what was promised – If your presentation is titled, “Five surprising secrets to sales success,” you’d better provide some genuinely fresh and surprising tips for selling. Otherwise, your audience is not only likely to be disappointed at the end, but will probably lose interest in what you have to say long before you’ve finished.
- They don’t want to be uncomfortable – People going into a presentation are there to learn something, not to hear awkward personal revelations or off-color jokes. Nor do they want to be singled out from the crowd and asked questions they don’t know the answers to or made to look foolish through some ill-advised “audience participation” bit. But the big key is this: they will be uncomfortable if you’re uncomfortable. So remember to relax, act naturally and talk about what you know. Your audience will appreciate it.
- They want to like you – If anything should help you shake off nerves before a presentation, this is it: the people you’re speaking to want you to do well (unless, of course, you’re the bearer of bad news). They want to like you, so give them the opportunity. Think about the presentations you yourself have attended, and which ones you remember best for being outstandingly good rather than painfully bad. The information presented might have stuck with you, but chances are better it’s the person you remember: how inspiring she was, how likeable he was. Be that kind of person (while being yourself, not imitating someone else) and your audience will leave your presentation with the same kind of positive feelings.
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