If you’re nervous and panicking because you don’t know how to present a presentation, you’ve come to the right place.
Giving a project presentation in front of your peers or colleagues can indeed be a nerve-wracking experience.
Sweating palms and the fear of freezing or forgetting what to say are common things many feel right before a presentation.
You’re not alone in this. Researchers found that public speaking anxiety and the fear of speaking in front of an audience affect around 15% to 30% of people.
Social anxiety, which often extends to presentation situations, has seen a 12% increase in adults over the last two decades.
It’s normal to feel a surge of nerves. Discomfort is part of the learning process to know how to present a presentation.
Even the world’s best speakers have moments when their presentations don’t go as planned.
Despite giving countless speeches and interviews, billionaire Warren Buffet reportedly still fears presentations?
The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway admitted to being terrified of public speaking. However, he refused to let his fear get the better of him.
“The one easy way to become worth 50% more than you are now, at least, is to hone your communication skills – both written and verbal,” says Buffet.
The key lies in practice and perseverance. Just like any skill, public speaking and presentation improve with time and experience.
In no time, you will know how to present a presentation.
But first, you need to know what are your fears and confront them.
Why we’re so afraid of project presentations
Being watched or in the spotlight isn’t natural for many of us. Even the most successful people suffer from this.
And this is because we’re all human, who since prehistoric times have perceived people watching us as an existential threat.
It made sense then — you were likely watched by predators who can eat you alive. And since then, it’s shaped our brains to think about those eyes as dangerous.
Our brains then get us to respond in fight or flight mode.
Today, we still experience these ancient feelings of stress and anxiety when we’re being watched by people. We see them as threats and attacks or anticipate them as impending ones.
By doing that, we stutter, look down, mumble, sweat and forget. Then we beat ourselves up for not sounding like President Barack Obama or Priyanka Chopra.
Fortunately, while these fears have been around since the earliest humans, there are many mental tricks we can learn to conquer them.
How to present a presentation: The first and most important step
Calming your nerves before and during a project presentation is crucial for effective communication.
One method is mindfulness meditation, which has been known for its positive effects on reducing anxiety and stress.
Before your presentation, take a few minutes to engage in deep breathing exercises or guided meditation to centre yourself.
Studies conducted by the American Psychological Association suggest that mindfulness practices can enhance focus and alleviate nervousness. F
or example, envision yourself delivering a successful presentation, visualising positive outcomes to create a sense of confidence and calmness.
Another effective way to calm nerves is through systematic desensitisation, a technique supported by research in psychology.
This involves gradually exposing yourself to the elements that cause anxiety in a controlled manner.
Start by practising your presentation in front of a mirror or a small group of friends, gradually increasing the audience size. This step-by-step approach helps build confidence and reduces anxiety over time.
You could even consider using positive affirmations to shift your mindset. Research by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that affirmations can boost self-esteem and decrease stress.
Repeat affirmations that reinforce your capabilities and preparedness, such as “I am well-prepared, and I can handle any questions with confidence.”
Once you’ve mastered this, below are more tips and techniques on how to present a presentation with success:
How to present a presentation with success
1. Plan your presentation
To ensure a successful project presentation, meticulous planning is key. Begin with a compelling introduction that presents the big idea of your project—whether it’s addressing a challenge or seizing an opportunity.
This initial step sets the stage for engagement and captures your audience’s attention. For example, if your project is about starting sustainable practices in a company, your introduction could highlight the key roles companies in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
Following that, you could provide practical action steps to achieve your goal. Break down complex concepts into easy-to-understand parts.
Presenting information in small chunks has been shown to increase understanding and retention.
And according to another study by the Wharton School of Business, structured presentations are perceived as more persuasive and credible by audiences.
When planning, consider the flow of information, ensuring a logical progression from introduction to body and conclusion.
2. Set SMART goals
Setting SMART project goals is key. SMART stands for these five components:
Specific: Clearly define your project goals. For example, if your project aims to boost customer experience on your company’s mobile app, a specific goal could be improving how responsive it is by 20%.
Measurable: You need to be able to quantify your goal. In the customer experience project, measurable goals could include achieving over 100,000 mobile app downloads on Google Playstore and Apple App Store.
Achievable: Is your goal within reach? While it’s good to be ambitious, ensure your goals are realistic and achievable within the available resources and time frame. For example, setting a goal of 200,000 app downloads in one week may be overly ambitious, but aiming for that goal in three months could make it more practicable.
Relevant: Make your goals aligned with broader business objectives. Ensure that your goals contribute to the growth and success of the company.
Time-Bound: Set specific time frames for goal accomplishment. This creates urgency and motivation.
By incorporating these principles, you not only provide a clear roadmap for your project presentation but also demonstrate a strategic and thoughtful approach to your audience.
3. Practise your presentation
Just like Warren Buffet did, practice is a must-do step in knowing how to present a presentation well.
As you walk through your presentation, talk it out loud to yourself or a friend.
Pay attention to the speed of your delivery and the tone of your voice, and note the key parts you want to emphasise.
Studies show that practising a presentation multiple times not only makes you more familiar with the content but also boosts your confidence.
4. Make eye contact
Imagine if you had to sit through a presentation where the presenter is just looking down the whole time.
You will lose interest and concentration after a while. That is how important eye contact is for effective communication.
When you have focused eye contact with your audience for brief periods, typically three to five seconds, you create a sense of connection and engagement.
Studies show that eye contact makes the speaker more credible and fosters a positive perception among the audience.
This simple yet powerful habit transforms passive listeners into active participants.
Imagine a scenario where you’re discussing the positive outcomes of your project.
By making eye contact during key points, you establish a connection with your audience, allowing them to feel more connected to the success stories you’re sharing.
5. Use pictures and videos
Pictures and videos can improve your presentation and enhance engagement.
Research shows that while traditional slideshow presentations may sometimes lead to audience disinterest, adding videos can make them more lively.
For example, when presenting a project proposal, consider making a video that provides a visual journey of your project in action or includes interviews with key stakeholders and team members.
This lets you tell a story — not only is it easier for you when presenting (because humans are natural story tellers) but also makes your content more impactful and memorable.
Visual aids like videos can significantly help your audience remember what you said better too.
6. Don’t rely on a script
A script is a great tool especially if this is your first time presenting. But don’t just read from it all the way. This can affect the natural flow of your presentation.
Instead, try being more conversational. When you engage them, you create a connection that scripted presentations may lack.
You can also try using an outline but give yourself the freedom to navigate the presentation more dynamically, responding to the energy of the room and adjusting your content as needed.
This approach not only feels more natural but also enables you to connect with your audience on a more personal level.
7. Use stories and analogies
While numbers and statistics add weight to what you’re saying, stories have the power to captivate and engage.
For example, if you’re presenting a project that involves overcoming challenges, share a story of a real-life scenario where persistence and innovation led to success.
Everyone has a similar narrative, making it easy for your audience to see themselves in your story and enabling them to extract meaning for their own application.
Analogies are also great when delivering a presentation, especially when dealing with complex ideas.
If your project involves concepts that might be hard for some to grasp, use analogies to bridge the gap.
For example, if you want to explain how unexpected the obstacles you faced, you could say: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
8. Make the most of non-verbal language
Over three-quarters of communication is non-verbal, emphasising the importance of body language in conveying your message.
To improve your project presentation, avoid closed-off gestures like crossed arms or hands held behind your back or in your pockets.
Instead, opt for open and confident gestures. Move naturally around the stage and, if possible, engage with the audience to create an interactive atmosphere.
However, do keep in mind that pacing the stage can be distracting. It’s best to be strategic about how and when you pace. Move just enough to complement your narrative.
For example, when discussing an upward trend, raise your hand to illustrate growth, and when explaining a downward trend, use a downward motion.
These simple yet impactful gestures not only enhance audience understanding but also make your presentation more engaging.