Standing at the end of the board table you look from one face to another. Vacant eyes stare back at you. Pens in hands, poised to make notes, your peers, senior managers and the Board are all waiting for you present your paper.
Your hands begin to sweat, you can feel a bead of perspiration roll down your back and your heartbeat is so loud it is pounding in your ears. You’re so nervous that you speed-read through your slides and forget to pass out the handouts. As you take your seat you realise you didn’t even mention the key point.
Has this ever happened to you?
Statistics show that many people fear public speaking more than death.
For anyone who’s not prepared, I agree that presentations can be quite daunting, however, if you plan and practice you will be poised to present with confidence. It’s important to understand that you will still be nervous – that’s what keeps you at your peak level of performance – but you will be in control of your nerves, the other way around.
Here are my ten top tips for presenting in the boardroom:
Tip 1: The most important thing when giving a presentation is to know your topic. There is nothing more boring for your attendees than watching you read through power point slides. Remember, the people you are presenting to are a resource – there to give you feedback – and it’s your role to engage them with real life scenarios and case studies.
Have your main points written down as reference, but don’t simply read them out –you should know the majority of your information off by heart. Having the points written down also keeps you on track and on time.
Tip 2: If you need to show a product or sample, have it with you and, if possible, ensure you have one for each attendee. Make sure you have all the resources you need to support the points you are making in your presentation.
Tip 3: Handouts are a resource to support your presentation and are a point of reference for attendees; so present them in a professional manner. To prevent last-minute stress, print and bind your handouts two days prior to your presentation.
Tip 4: Take your presentation on your laptop as well as a thumb drive. If using your own laptop ensure it is compatible with the AV equipment and you have all the correct leads and connectors. Practice using the remote pointer and slide changer and always take spare batteries with you on the day. If you are using someone else’s laptop ensure they have your correct presentation loaded.
Tip 5: Always be prepared and don’t leave anything to chance. Confirm the final numbers attending the presentation and pack your bag the day before.
Tip 6: Mental preparation begins days in advance. Each time someone asks you about your presentation say, “Yes, I’m looking forward to presenting XYZ.” Be confident and don’t indicate that you’re nervous – positive thoughts empower you. Think positively and don’t let doubt creep in.
Tip 7: Your personal grooming needs to be professional. Remember to try your outfit on at home while you’re practicing your presentation in the mirror – If there is a wardrobe malfunction it’s better seen at home than in the boardroom. Take into account things like matching socks, clean shoes, midriff exposure if you lift your arms and underarm wet zones. Accessories also need to be professional and not distracting. Keep your hands out of your pockets and have your hair styled so that you won’t be flicking it out of your eyes while you’re speaking.
Tip 8: If possible go to the boardroom before the meeting to run through your presentation and make sure the equipment is set up. Take your bag in earlier and have the handouts and products/samples within easy reach. Work out where you will stand that won’t block the screen.
Tip 9: When you enter the room remember to breathe and walk tall with confidence.
Tip 10: When standing at the head of the table, take a moment to simply stand still. Be confident and don’t fidget – you know the information, so pause to get their attention. Advise your peers that you will be showing slides along with supporting information, which is in the document you have already handed out. At that moment they will pick up your handout and take a look at it – give them a few seconds to do this and then commence.
Have your reference sheet of points on the table in front of you. When they ask questions, think about the answer and if you don’t know, be honest and say, “That is a really good question, can I get back to you after the meeting as I want to give you the correct information”. Don’t make something up, you know you will get caught out. There is nothing more embarrassing than standing in front of people when you have lost your credibility.