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Make an impact: Presentation training with Ray Jordan

For many, the idea of stepping on to a stage or standing before a group of peers to make a presentation is nearly worse than death. Some might even believe it really is worse than death!

And to heighten anxiety and frustration, seeing someone else standing there, seemingly relaxed and delivering with certainty and clarity to a completely captivated audience, just makes your own shortcomings so much more real.

Where are their nerves? How is this person so calm, while I am struggling the get even the simplest sentence out?

A duck in a pond

Delivering a presentation or speech is a little like a duck in a pond – gliding effortlessly above, while paddling frantically below.

The secret is to manage nerves. While what you see is a highly competent presentation delivered with perfect poise, what you don’t see are all the decisions of what to put in and leave out; the decisions on what it looks like; the careful choice of words to heighten its effectiveness – the duck underwater.

You probably also don’t see those preceding minutes before the presenter steps forward, where thoughts are collected, and the mind focuses on the presentation ahead.

Preparation, Presentation and Performance

Each stage requires a commitment, otherwise you risk delivering a poor presentation and realising your worst fears.

A poor presentation can mean lost opportunity, with damage to personal and company brand, wasted time and possibly additional costs to recover lost ground.

So, it makes sound business sense to invest appropriate time into ensuring that you and your presentation are the best they can be.

Preparation – the content

It all starts with being clear on your key reason for making your presentation. Once you have that clear in your mind, you can work on developing the basic content – narrative tread, sequence of slides, and visual components to bring the presentation to life.

You are most probably presenting on behalf of your business, so it makes sense to engage others within your business to help develop these words and messages. Your internal corporate affairs team or external consultants are well placed to put a little polish into your words and give them some punch.

Presentation – how it looks and feels

Then there is the look and feel of your words – the presentation. While most people can cobble together a basic PowerPoint, it is worth considering getting professional graphic design help to make the most impact from a visual sense. A good graphic designer will work with you in creating the right tone and level of visual effects to ensure the message is maximised.

The performance – dealing with those nerves

And finally, the performance – actually, doing the thing, presenting. To get to this stage, considerable work has been done to develop a compelling and clear presentation. Now all you must do is deliver it…well.

So, let’s look at how you start. The nerves build, you might sweat a bit, you get edgy, your muscles tense. You are not the only one. Pretty much everyone feels this way to some extent.

One thing is to think of your performance in the same way a sportsperson might. A cricketer, footballer, netballer, or tennis player for instance. You know they are tense and a little nervous before they start. With some you can almost see it in their eyes, while others seem totally in control.

But they all have a pre-game approach to prepare them for action. Okay, there is the famous apocryphal story of the Aussie cricketer decades ago who was so bad at batting that he asked someone to hold his cards as he went out to bat and he would finish the hand when he returned. That’s the exception.

But today’s professionals in whatever sport, run through a sequence of things they must do to make sure they are ready. That they feel ready. Tick all the preparation boxes and the confidence will grow and the nerves will start to abate.

You will have nerves, but they will be in control. Although every sportsperson will say that a few nerves are not a bad thing as they sharpen the mind and body before the match.

And a sharp mind is not a bad thing to have when you step before an audience to deliver an important presentation, a presentation you have practised many times.

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Ray is one of Western Australia’s most highly-regarded corporate communicators and strategists, recognised for his pragmatic and creative approach to major projects across different sectors.

Before moving to corporate communications, he held executive positions in the media – including the role of Deputy Editor of The West Australian – and has a proven ability to craft messages that resonate with both journalists and readers.

If you would like to invest in presentation or media training, browse our services here.

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