One of the best ways to feel more confident and capable of carrying out a talk, presentation or training of some kind, where you are in the spotlight, is to be prepared.
As an aspiring leader, it’s a chance for you to show off your skills and talents to their best advantage in the hope that you’ll be seen as being promotion-ready and worthy of a new role. As a leader already in role, it’s a chance to demonstrate your credibility and authority.
In both cases, it’s your time to shine. Feeling prepared can help minimize stress and pressure and maximize your chances of giving a confident, polished performance. Giving presentations puts you in the spotlight and it’s a great way to demonstrate your expertise and shore yourself up for career success. But it’s also well-reported as a source of fear – a 2015 YouGov survey reported that public speaking is still the no 1 fear in the UK.
So why do so many of us leave it until the very last possible moment to get our act together, or worse still, turn up and think we can ‘wing it’ in the meeting room or on the conference platform? It’s hardly a confidence-building tactic is it?
It makes sense to be fully prepared – public speaking can be a great tool for career advancement.
Here are my top tips to ensure you’re fully prepared for the public performance you’re about to pull off, whether it’s presenting to a team of three, or an audience of 300.
Have a realistic estimate of the time you have to prepare. Often we can underestimate the time we have, and all too quickly, it can be two days before the event and we’ve not started to prepare. Mark the event clearly in your diary, and then mark inone month before, andtwo weeks before. At one month before, begin your first outline and research, gathering sources of information and keep it all in one place, however you prefer to do this. These are suggested timescales – adjust them appropriately, depending on the task at hand.
- Understand exactly what you need to do,in order tofeel prepared. This will vary. I like to have three ‘passes’ at a piece of work, and it’s the third time of working on it that produces my best work. Know what you prefer and what works well for you and make sure you build in enough time to cover any revisions you need to make.
- Know when to stop. The amount of improvements we can make to anything are endless – but it’s important to be able to draw a line under a project and let it go. Perfectionism serves no-one, least of all ourselves. Have a cut off point and stick to it. Make a separate list of ideas to note for next time.
- Practice out loud – and know when to stop.
- Review your performance. What’s gone well, what could be improved on for next time round? Make a note of these – don’t just rely on your memory, which will invariably let you down. Keep your follow up notes with everything associated with the project – in one place.
- Adopt a success routine that serves you well. Think about how you want to feel and show up. What impression do you want to create and how can you go about managing that? What do you need to do the day or night before an important event that will allow you to be at your most resourceful, confident and impressive? If I’m giving a big talk or presentation, I make sure my bag is packed the night before, I have a completed checklist of everything I need with me, I know the route, I’m aware of any potential traffic or weather issues and I choose to make sure I’m as relaxed as possible. I pack drinks and snacks, including extra water. I might have a bath and watch a film. On the day of the event, I’ll arrive extra early and make sure I’m set up the way I prefer. I find a quiet space to gather my thoughts and center and ground myself when I can. What is your preferred routine?
- Build in rest periods. I work for myself and control my own diary and have learned over the years to give myself a clear day after a big event. Recovery time is important. Where possible, do this yourself, or at least schedule in less demanding tasks if you can.
Public speaking can be a great vehicle for showcasing our talents. Feeling prepared helps build confidence in ourselves and it signals our competence to others which can help us to make an impact as a leader. Don’t leave it to chance.
Isn’t worth investing in the time to make sure you succeed?
Giving presentations is just one way to make an impact at work. If you’re keen to have more of a presence at work, then you can download 5 Steps To develop Your Leadership Presence, which contains ideas for enhancing your visibility, credibility and gravitas.
About the author:
Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who teaches ambitious professional women how to develop the credibility, visibility and impact they need to land their next promoted post and establish themselves as a leader.