You’ve spent long hours getting ready for your next big pitch. You know your brand, believe in your work, and love your product. What is it that’s keeping you from giving the most compelling presentation possible? Often plagued by presentation dependencies that have built over a lifetime, we freeze. The fear of public speaking affects at least 25 percent of people. Many of us speed through our main points or forget to mention them altogether. We tend to treat our script as a security blanket, not able to present without it in hand. It is important to identify which of these presentation dependencies you may face before going into your next big first impression. After all, second chances are one in a million.

Fear of Public Speaking

We all have varying degrees of fear when it comes to crowds. If getting in front of a group of people intimidates you, embarrassment of this fear certainly should not add to your troubles. It’s important to identify what it is you are afraid of. Is it the sheer amount of people that will be hearing what you have to say? Are you nervous about being the center of attention? Do you suffer from anxiety? Get to the root of the problem so you know where to explore from there.

Once you have identified what exactly it is that scares you, ease yourself into similar situations to get acquainted with your barriers to entry. Try different approaches each time. Don’t give up, but also don’t use your fear as a crutch–it is simply an obstacle that you can overcome in time. The more often you get in the saddle, the more comfortable you will be as a leader, and that grip of fear public speaking causes will loosen.

Getting Ahead of Yourself

We’ve all been there when we are excited about a novel or a movie and it is nearly impossible to share without giving away the ending. Oftentimes, this can be the case with our presentations as well—especially if you are sold on the product or idea yourself. It is okay to “dangle the carrot” a bit, but tread lightly on giving away your true golden nugget until the very end. This will build suspense and help you hold focus in the room. Once staying on course is in the forefront of your mind, you will easily be able to steer your presentation point-by-point, strategically building to the big call-to-action.

Going ‘Off Book’

Growing up in the theater world, as actors we were expected to be “off book” a few weeks before opening night. The same should be true in the professional world. Notecards, papers and excessive words on each slide cause a presentation to be robotic, insincere and even boring. It’s important to sound genuine and passionate while masterfully navigating your slide deck. While not having the crutch of your paper in hand, consider thoughtful hand gestures to work into your pitch. If hand gestures aren’t your speed, make sure to keep your arms and hands “quiet.” Recite at least 20 times without the script in your hand. Practice in front of a mirror. Record yourself on video, or have a friend watch you to catch when your hand gestures get out of control. The more in control of your body you are, the better chance you have at audience buy-in.

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