Your presentation is planned. You've prepared, rehearsed, you're wearing your 'power clothes,' and you're saying the silent prayer shared by speakers all over the world: "May my technology work as it's supposed to, may I remember all my important points as I did in my second-to-last rehearsal which was the best one yet, may the audience laugh at all the right moments, may people think I'm brilliant, may I get lots of business from this -- in short, may I be awesome in every way!"
Silent prayer aside, there are many things that can derail your speaking awesomeness. Technology, traffic, timing, too-tight shoes and other terrible things can wreak havoc on the unprepared speaker.
Luckily, most of these things can be avoided with a little planning. Here are 10 things you must to do to be awesome on the day of your presentation.
1. Show up early.
Get there at least an hour early. Set up your technology, organize your handouts (if you have any) before any attendees show up, and make sure everything works. By the time your audience starts to show up, the only thing that should be left for you to do is to greet them with a big smile.
2. Bring backups of your backups.
If you're using slides for your presentation, you can't always expect that technology will work as planned. When I'm giving a presentation that requires slides, I've got them on my computer, I've saved them to two memory keys, and I've uploaded it to Dropbox. I bring extra batteries for my wireless presenter. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Be ready with some backups in case something goes wrong.
3. Speaking of backups...
Is your wardrobe going to facilitate your awesomeness? When I know that I've got a full day of speaking, training or networking in front of me, I'll bring backup shoes. If you know that you'll be standing on your feet in fabulously-stylish-but-not-meant-for-standing-all-day shoes, you'll need some backups! . (Check out a previous post about my ridiculous misadventures sitting on a countertop in a bathroom stall praying for my feet to stop killing me so that I could last another seven hours).
4. Go to the washroom. Seriously.
We can get so caught up in the technology and room preparations that this very important task can be forgotten. About 15 to 20 minutes before your start time, take a trip to the loo! Do your business, check yourself top to bottom in the mirror to make sure that everything is zipped up, check your teeth, check your nose and then get back to the room! There's nothing worse than thinking that your audience can't take their eyes off you because of your magnificent presence and fascinating content, only to find out that remnants of spinach from that morning's green smoothie is lurking between your teeth in a way-too-mesmerizing way.
5. Meet the people.
Now that you're back from the washroom and in shape from top-to-bottom, greet your audience as they walk through the door. When you have a chance to connect with some people before your presentation, you'll have 'broken the ice' and will no longer be speaking to a group of strangers.
6. Say YES to the microphone.
If you're going to be speaking in a large room and you are offered a microphone, take it. If there's a doubt that people may not be able to hear you, take it. If you feel uncomfortable with a microphone and are sure that you can speak loudly enough throughout the presentation, you are wrong, so you should take it. Your audience should never have to struggle to hear your presentation.
7. Have water nearby.
If you're nervous, if you speak for a long time, or if you haven't drank enough throughout the day, speaking can suck the moisture right out of you. The good news is, all you need to do is have some water nearby. If you're using a glass, keep it within reach, but far enough away from your computer in case of accidental spills.
8. Watch your time.
It can be hard to keep track of time when you're speaking. There isn't always a clock on the wall in the room, so you've got to be prepared. Timing is YOUR responsibility. I often use a little travel alarm clock set up right in front of my computer, which is a discreet and effective. Other times, I've set my wristwatch on the table right next to my computer, or on the podium, or wherever there's a flat surface. Do not check your smartphone or your watch (if it's on your wrist), because those are VERY distracting movements -- and very unprofessional.
9. Ever heard of "Power Posing?"
In the very famous TED talk, "Your body language shapes who you are," Amy Cuddy shows how "power posing" -- standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident -- can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might have an impact on our chances for success. In essence, when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful. Yes, I've tried it. I felt a bit silly. But when I was also feeling nervous for the talk, feeling silly and laughing at myself, even for a few seconds, actually did relieve some stress and make me feel better.
10. Have faith!
If you've prepared, practiced and done everything on this list, have faith that everything will be as it should be. Remember that your presentation doesn't have to be perfect. But it does have to show your audience that you've put in time preparing something specific for them and their needs, something that is structured and engaging, and is a valuable use of their time (need to create more structure and focus in your presentations, and truly stand out as a speaker?).
The day of your presentation can be full of surprises. But when you're prepared for them, the surprises won't throw you off. And your speaking awesomeness will be evident for all to see.
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