Removing fear and becoming a better presenter

No doubt each of us has seen dozens of presentations in our lives, throughout our education years and then again through working life. Regardless of how common this practice is the fear of presenting remains ranked very highly on the list of anxieties that modern professionals face.

And for those that are anxious about it the entire process of presenting well seems to be a daunting mystery.

What does a great presenter do?

We have all seen great presenters. They leave us feeling inspired, motivated and they deliver material that we want to rush and tell other people about. But how do they do it? They seem so confident!

One key difference between those that struggle and those that thrive is that the thrivers realise and accept that not everyone will like them. They remove that pressure that comes with wanting to be perfect and it makes them more human. And of course, more human means more personable and compelling.

Work the room

A key presenter also works the room well. They will direct comments to individuals rather than the room. They will look various people in the eye. This does two things: 1) delivers the message more clearly to that person and 2) gives the speaker some feedback on how they’re performing. The poor presenter will panic if the feedback is neutral or poor, which brings us to the next point:

Always have a fall-back position

If you know that there is a possibility that a crowd will have their collective mind wander elsewhere then you also know that you should prepare for such an occasion. If you start to notice people drifting off, eyes wandering or some chatter in the back row it is probably a sign that you need to involve the audience some more.

If you have two or three interactions up your sleeve, such as questions for the audience or a mini exercise they can do in pairs, or something to take note of – then you have a response for when you begin to lose the room. Reacting to the room is such an important part of being a strong presenter.

Too much time talking via a screen

If anything, the fears that surround presenting in front of a group are getting worse over time, and part of the reason is the sheer amount of screen interaction we have now that is overtaking what used to be face-to-face interaction.

This trend has us clipping off certain niceties via email or text – something we have all become accustomed to but what does it mean for our ability to present? More people are starting to find the idea of looking people in the eye much more daunting. Take this as a hint that if you want to be good at presenting you need to look for as many opportunities to interact on a personal basis as possible. Practice does make perfect!

Presenting is a two-way conversation

The other key take away to keep in mind is that presentations are not broadcasts. It is much better to think of them as conversations for which you have set the agenda, rather than an uninterrupted speech you want to rush through and deliver. Once you see it as something that is a two-way conversation your mind quickly shifts to finding out what the other side wants to hear from you.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking a good presentation is simply about charisma and confidence. The ability to prepare, think through your audience’s perspective and to interact with them will create the confidence. The more you put yourself forward and stay mindful of these pointers the better you will present and, who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Eve Ash will be presenting two half-day workshops at AIM in Melbourne on Thursday, November 15 on Creating a Motivating Culture and on Thursday, November 29 on Presenting with Impact. Eve invites SmartCompany Melbourne readers to join in or pass the message on. It will be very hands on and interactive and not a large group! Eve has also produced some fun new resources on hot topics like Presenting with Passion and Creating a No-Blame Culture (


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