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Practise key to easing presentation panic

Published on Friday, 14 Dec 2012
Rebecca Cheung
Managing director, cut-e China

I need to deliver a presentation at my company’s upcoming annual regional meeting but I’m not, and never have been, a good public speaker. How can I improve my public-speaking skills? Also, there will be a lot of senior management at the event. How can I impress them and what type of small talk can I make with bosses and peers from other regions? Shy

The thought of presenting in front of a group of people can be quite daunting. The best way to tackle fear is to focus your attention on the preparation of the actual presentation.

You need to be clear about the reason for the presentation and its links to the overall objective and agenda of the annual regional meeting.

You also need to find out who your senior management audience will be and what information they should be interested in taking away.

Be sure that you know the typical presentation style in your organisation. Typically, people use PowerPoint slides to direct their presentations. Remember that a succinct deck of slides with appropriate use of text, graphic and images is appealing to the eyes and, more importantly, helps you
appear to be a knowledgeable and confident presenter.

With all the groundwork done, allow yourself sufficient time to rehearse. Practise is the word. Write down your introduction, share it with your boss, and practise it in front of your family or friends. Ask them to observe your posture, body movement, eye contact and tone of voice.

The more you prepare, the less anxious you become, because you are mentally and emotionally grounded in the task. Think of a humorous icebreaker
to start with, even if it is in front of senior managers. And if it doesn’t come off perfectly, humility and humour can go a long way to help you connect with people and make your talk more enjoyable.

Rather than trying to impress people by making deliberate small talk, relationship-building has to be genuine and come from the heart. Your presence will leave a mark on people if you can connect sincerely with their thoughts and feelings. Small talk, then, should always come from a genuine interest in
other people, their lives and their aspirations.

Rebecca Cheung, Greater China managing director of the cut-e Group, is an expert in assessment and psychometric testing for talent selection, leadership development, succession planning and career guidance

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