If you’ve been invited to make a presentation, chances are you’ve already
invested a good deal of time and energetic capital into getting this account by
responding to an RFP or participating in initial meetings. Now you’re looking
to close the deal. What are your best shots for succeeding?
Success lies in preparation, and this is true whether you’re a natural-born
speaker or not. Even those of you who have a gift for thinking quickly on your
feet are apt to leave out an important detail, interpretation, or explanation if you
And what about you shy, reticent types who wish you didn’t have to stand
up and present at all? Two surefire techniques for working through nervousness
are preparation and practice.
Steffanie Lorig, executive director of Art with Heart in Seattle, recalls how she
felt. “I was terrified for the first ten presentations I made.” The audience size at her
presentations ranged from one person to a group of twenty marketing executives
who were resistant to her recommendations. “You have to really work on your
verbal skills,” she advises. “Preparing a lot helps, as well as thinking out beforehand
how you’ll respond to questions or opposition.” What’s Steffanie’s greatest challenge
now that she’s an experienced presenter? “I have to communicate my enthusiasm
while, at the same time, making sure I sell the concept,” she says.
We also recommend you review your presentation afterward to improve
future performances. Make it a part of your performance routine to pinpoint
objectively what you did well and what you didn’t do so well. This self-review
allows you to desensitize yourself to the whole performance over time. Notice
that we wrote “objectively.” We don’t want you sinking into the shame and
despair cycle here. After all, 99 percent of us feel performance anxiety at least
once in a while, so relax—you is in good company.
Follow-up self-reviews help you remember that presentation skills can be
developed and improved. Margo Chase, creative director of The Chase Design
Group in Los Angeles, told us she and her team practice this principle after
every presentation as a way to evolve in their presentation skills.
Here are some more dos and don’ts for making successful presentations.