Get your mindset right for a great presentation
What I want to talk about today is a really important part of presenting or speaking or being in front of people, and that is preparation. Often we think of preparation as getting your slide deck sorted, getting PowerPoint open, making notes and making sure you're ready to go. But actually, there's a bit more preparation to be done that will really help you boost your performance, power it up and make you feel better when you're actually in the moment of speaking, presenting or even taking part in a panel discussion or a podcast.
Mindset is the real inner work required before a presentation
I'm talking about mindset, the real inner work required before presenting. It's best demonstrated in this example of the challenges we can sometimes present ourselves with inside our own minds.
I had a presentation client who really needed to create 30 minutes of content for a big event taking place in Manchester, UK. She's not a seasoned speaker. So she had to come up with new content. That was a really important part of the work we did, creating really good, compelling content.
And we created a great talk that was really useful for the audience she was about to share it with. It was new thinking and a new approach. It was going to be brilliant!
We got the structure sorted, it all made sense. And yet I picked up something on the language she was using about the day she was due to deliver it.
Challenging a negative mindset - It's all going to go horribly wrong
She said things like, "oh, it's just gonna go horribly wrong. Oh, I'm just going to look like an idiot. No one's gonna want to know this stuff, really. Other speakers will be better than I will be. I'm going to turn up and it's going to be awful."
She was peppering all of our sessions with this language, so I had to challenge her on it, obviously, because that's my job. I ask her about it and suggested that she changed it. Flipped it, because this was an opportunity. For example, yes she might not be the best speaker on the line-up but she was just starting out and that was to be applauded. Yes, she might not know as much as other people but she's bringing a great perspective, and she's got great content and so on.
The mindset script you write for yourself is important
So, the script that you write for yourself is really important. You must be aware of it. You may do this yourself or hear others speaking negatively about themselves quite often and it's something that we don't talk about.
We talk about slides and content and messages and what we're going to say. But we rarely ever acknowledge just how nervous or anxious were feeling about these moments in our lives. However, this shouldn't be left to chance.
Don't just rock up to a presentation, support yourself with the right mindset
I believe really strongly that we need to dig into this area to support ourselves. I am a seasoned professional speaker. I do strut stages and looking at me, you might think, I just rock up and stroll onto the stage and it's all fine because I've done it loads of times before. But actually, no, I do a lot of prep' that isn't associated with slide decks and scripts and all that kind of stuff. I do a lot of work in my mind about preparing for it.
Professional athletes use mindset
It's a bit like an athlete turning up to do a really important race at a big meet, they are prepared mentally. People prepare stuff in their heads, don't they? We know this, So why don't we do it when we're doing a presentation at work? Why don't we take it seriously when we're taking part in a panel, we get tangled up, don't we? It's a bit like that athlete turning up, having just done a big shop at Tesco (or Walmart for my US readers!). That never happens because they don't leave it to chance, and neither should you.
Visualise success before a presentation
There are a couple of things that you could do. The first is positive visualisations. Do you ever think of yourself as looking out at a sea of faces? With an "oh my God, it's going to go horribly wrong" feeling?
Well, reframe that in your mind. When visualising the audience consider what value you will bring them. What useful information they will learn. Remember, when watching you on stage they're probably looking really interested and absorbing all your fabulous information.
Don't forget to breath
It's small little twists in mindset like this that will help you along with other small tips like taking time to breathe. I know that's a really easy thing to say but we quite often forget to breathe. Do you understand what I mean? Breathing with intention, it's really valuable.
Use pre-talk downtime to practice
That same presentation client said her commute to do her talk would be an hour and a half, she felt this was a waste of her time because she wouldn't be able to work on her talk. I said, well, actually, she could. That hour and a half in a car you're alone, no one can hear you. You can practise your start. You can practise your finish. You can polish the bits that you're less fluent in.
Talking to yourself in the car is something I do a lot. If I wasn't alone my passengers would think I'm bonkers. I big myself up when I'm driving to a venue, "I've got this right. I know what I'm doing. I've done it before. The last time I spoke on this topic, it was really well received." And in fact, "that bit I do about this section is really useful to the audience."
It's not that they're lucky to have me, but I'm really proud of the content that I've got to share, and I'm really looking forward to it. Keep telling yourself this, and it goes in eventually trust me.
I wish I'd worked on my mindset years ago
It's this approach that I wish I had done when I was on TV when I was bricking it when I was doing live national broadcasting on the radio, and I just never took the time to prepare.
And there are other things you can do, like move a bit, move that fight or flight adrenaline surge around your body, Do some yoga or go for a walk, try stretch movement and stay hydrated. All of these are invaluable when preparing to speak.
Those are just some ideas serving suggestions. Why not create your own menu of what works for you. You might want to spend an hour on visualisation and meditation and yoga, drinking water. You might want to spend just 10 minutes a day doing that in the week before a presentation. Just don't leave it to chance and don't think that just because other people are confident that they know what they're doing.
You should grab every opportunity you can to support yourself and be a better speaker, better presenter, a better podcast guest, you name it. Whatever we do that makes us feel nervous, just hunker down a little bit and think about what might work for you. I hope that's been useful and good luck. You're going to be brilliant.
Presentation skills: Free resources
- FREE Turorial: The Presentation Planner
- FREE Tutorial: How to calm nerves before a presentation
- Slide-free presentations: Kick the PowerPoint habit
- Podcast: Are you a great speaker or just good enough?
- Video: Want to nail your next presentation? Here’s why mindset matters
- Got an opinion? Share it
- What's the point of your story?
- Follow this simple rule to stop your anecdotes from sinking like the Titanic
Does this sound familiar? We can help
“My role requires me to have more presence, be more visible. I'm not sure where to start.”
"Our new board member needs to improve their confidence."
“I'm expected to present more and speak at events but I hate it.”