As you know, giving a presentation involves more than just stepping onto a podium. There’s the process of getting ready, the process of delivery, and the process of managing anxiety. Using your natural strengths in all of these processes and being mindful of your needs will set you up for success.
In this article, let’s look at the steps in the first process—preparation.
Learn your time management preference. Think about a “pace of action” continuum. Do you like preparing your material well in advance so you have plenty of time to review? This is a “rush and wait” style. Or do you prefer to “wait and rush”? (You last-minute people know who you are.) Or are you in the middle, preferring to work at a steady pace up to your presentation day? Whatever your natural preference, use it.
My natural preference is to work at a steady pace. If my talk is in two months, I prepare a little bit each week. In a prior job, the corporate culture involved a late-night “death march” before presentations. Needless to say, I found this stressful. While you can’t always control your environment, follow your preference when possible.
Manage your anxiety level. This requires doing what you can to work in your “sweet spot”—your preferred environment. Take my prior job. The environment did not suit my natural preference or needs. So I had to create the environment I needed. For instance, to minimize my anxiety, I encouraged my colleagues to prepare further ahead for critical client presentations. However, creating this environment wasn’t always possible, so I saved this action step for the most important presentations. For less important presentations, despite my need for a slower pace, I adapted to their culture of procrastination.
Sometimes we cause ourselves stress by not acknowledging the environment we need. For example, a colleague of mine tends to procrastinate even though she knows this causes her stress before a presentation. Don’t exacerbate your stress by ignoring your needs.
Another way to manage anxiety is to know your presentation material cold. This is true regardless of your natural preferences or needs. That way, you’ll deliver your material with greater ease and will feel comfortable fielding any question that is thrown your way.
Presenting can be stressful, even for experienced speakers. By following your preferred pace of action—while attending to your needs to manage anxiety—you can make your presentation a positive experience for all. Stay tuned for more articles on presentations.