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Reduce your fear of presenting
with these nifty tips

If the thought of giving presentations brings you out in a cold sweat, try reducing your fear of presenting by putting these tips to the test.

Tip 1: Know the purpose of your presentation
Every presentation should have a single purpose or theme that can be easily expressed in one or two sentences. Reminding yourself of the theme before the presentation helps focus your thoughts on the subject and reduce your fear of presenting. This is because a defined theme places a boundary around the presentation’s content. Staying within this boundary will stop you becoming sidetracked. If that happens you can easily loose your train of thought.

Tip 2: Know the subject matter
The greatest fear of presenting is the fear of the unknown. Therefore, you should eliminate as many unknowns as possible. You many not have control over all aspects of the presentation, but you should have control over its subject matter. So find out as much as you can about the subject you are presenting. The more you know about the subject matter, the more confident you will be giving presentations.

Tip 3: Begin well and the rest will follow
When giving presentations, the most worrying part is the first few minutes. In Tip 1, I mentioned that every presentation should have a single theme that can be expressed in one or two sentences. Well, use those sentences as your opening. If it helps, learn the sentences off by heart. It’s also a good idea to tell your audience how long you’ll speak for, when you plan to take questions and if there are any handouts at the end. Memorizing this means you don't have to think about the first few minutes and will help you overcome any initial fear of presenting. After that you will feel more comfortable as you begin to settle in to the presentation.

Tip 4: Know your audience
You need to know who the audience will be and what they expect from your presentation. You can then tailor your presentation to their needs. Whether it is senior managers, technical personnel or a sales team, the audience composition should guide you in the words you choose and the examples you use to illustrate your points. The clearer you define what information your audience requires, the more focused your presentation will be and the greater your chance of delivering a good presentation.

Tip 5: Connect with your audience
If a friend asks for a run-down of the presentation, you could probably talk with them for some time without feeling nervous. But the thought of doing the same in a room full of people sends many a presenter into panic mode. So try to give the presentation as if it were a one-on-one conversation. Take a friendly approach so audience members feel as though you're speaking directly to them. Of course you want them to take you seriously, but that doesn't mean you have to be overly formal.

Tip 6: Slow down – a bit!
When you have a fear of presenting, you tend to speak quickly. By being aware of this you can consciously slow down the tempo of your delivery. As a good rule of thumb, allow about one slide for every two minutes of presentation. Give the audience time to digest new information, give them time to look at the slides, give yourself time to think clearly.

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