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Stop Nervous Habits from Ruining Presentations

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How to Stop Nervous Habits from Ruining Presentations

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope the last few weeks were filled with joy, peace, good cheer...and a lot less work stress!

Although it may be a "New Year," most of us our still battling "old problems" in our careers. Hopefully, I can continue to shed a little light on solutions - so keep those questions coming!

Last week, I offered advice on how to overcome the fear that twists your stomach like a Slinky BEFORE getting up in front of an audience and giving a presentation. But what about AFTER you're up there?

You've managed your fear this far. You understand the perspective of your audience and have tailored your presentation to keep them engaged. You've practiced over and over again until your dog can repeat it back to you. And then...

You're up there in front of everyone and the second wave of fear hits and your nerves kick into high gear.

Lori from Waterford, CT knows what I'm talking about..
.

Dear Michelle,

I have a really important meeting coming up. It's a meeting where I have to report to top management in my company about what things my group is going to work on for the upcoming year.

My problem is that when I get nervous, I have a tendency to speak very fast, to ramble, and the pitch of my voice goes up kind of high and squeaky.

I'm terrified that once I get into this meeting and I get up in front of all of these top managers, that I'm going to get so nervous, that I race through my presentation and that I talk about things that are completely irrelevant.

Please help me get my rambling under control!
 

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Okay, Lori, the first thing I want you to do is breathe! Come on girl, you can do it! You need to really take a look at exactly what you are trying to achieve. What is the outcome you want from this meeting? Get militant with yourself about practicing out loud EXACTLY what you're going to cover so that when it's time for you to report, everything flows easily off your tongue. I can't stress practicing enough!

As you're practicing, figure out what words you might be able to eliminate. Less words means a clearer, more concise message - and less to try and remember. The first time you practice, you'll probably find that there are a lot of extra words crammed into your speech. Take 'em out. Be aware of your speaking rhythm, too. It sounds to me like your rhythm (when you're nervous) starts to pick up the pace faster and faster until everything becomes a verbal blur. Practice an easy-going pace and pay attention to it so you can duplicate it later on. Avoid going so slowly that everyone starts to glaze over, and don't go so quickly that the point of what you're saying sails away in a sea of words. Make sure that you pause and there is enough variety in your voice to make your speech easy to listen to. Don't be Ms. Monotone! Create a natural-sounding cadence and rhythm that will frame your message and bring it home to the audience.

Don't get bogged down with irrelevant details. If you find that you're beginning to ramble, just take a breath, pause, and think about what's the most important thing that you need to communicate. Don't repeat comments, and don't say things more than once. Avoid filling pauses with "um," "like," and "y'know."

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A word of caution: some people think that if they make a joke, it'll help put everyone at ease. Usually it does just the opposite. Stay away from humor and jokes ESPECIALLY if you're feeling very nervous. The only thing worse than dead silence after telling a joke is filling that silence with your own nervous, uncontrollable giggling. It's very unprofessional.

Remember, Lori: you were asked to make this presentation because you have a very valuable contribution to make to the company, and someone thinks you're a rising star. They WANT to hear what you have to say!

Good luck, Lori! I hope this helps you start the New Year off right.

 
For more FREE tips on advancing your career and navigating the workplace, sign up for my FREE e-zine "Lipstick Leadership" at LipstickLeadership.com today! And check out the products I've developed to guide you toward the success you deserve!




“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelius Antoninus