Breathe Deep

By Heather Baldwin

The last few moments before a presentation can be overwhelming. Will your equipment work? Will you remember what you’re going to say? Should you go say hello to the vice president of operations or check the projector one last time? To clear your mind of such worries use the following countdown plan for the minutes leading up to your presentation, suggests Chris Clarke-Epstein, president of the National Speakers Association:

15 minutes prior to the presentation: Take a last sweep of your logistics. Everything should already be set up. Now’s the time to make sure the computer, projector and props are right where you want them; the computer is on and ready to display your slides at the touch of a button; there’s a glass of water within reach and the lights are going to work.

10 minutes prior: Mingle with your audience. Introduce yourself to unfamiliar people, say hello to contacts you know and ask them about their lives – how their kids’ soccer game went, how the wedding plans are coming. Keep your ears open for new developments at the company. “Ground yourself in the here-and-now of the people you’re presenting to,” says Clarke-Epstein. “Keep your antenna out for information that might tie into your presentation. Look for ways to link what you’re presenting to the reality of the audience members’ lives.”

5 minutes prior: Quietly begin deep breathing exercises. Inhale through your nose for a count of seven, hold it for two and then exhale through the mouth for a count of seven again. The pattern helps lessen the rush of adrenaline that causes nervousness and it puts the maximum amount of oxygen into your brain. With practice, says Clarke-Epstein, you’ll be able to do the exercise and hold a conversation at the same time.

3 minutes prior: Extricate yourself from conversations and start thinking about your opening words. “Start with an anecdote, a statistic, a fact – something that shows value immediately, since the audience will be judging how engaged they should be,” says Clarke-Epstein. Think about tying in something from the conversations you’ve just had.

10 seconds prior: Repeat this mantra to yourself: “This presentation is not about me, it’s about the audience. I’m here to help them solve a problem.” “Most of our insecurity comes from focusing on ourselves,” says Clarke-Epstein: “What if I forget what I’m going to say? What if they don’t like me? What if I stumble over my introduction?” But it’s not about you. Get the focus where it should be – on the audience and how your product or service will help them – and then jump in with both feet.For more tips on giving great presentations, click here.