How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
To get good at speaking and to feel good about speaking, a simple rule is to practice hard.
For a single presentation, first of all run through the talk in your head several time, getting a feel for the flow and the key points you want to make. Check that it all makes sense and adjust what you are going to say as needed. Then do it out loud. If you are using a computer with slides, then include this. If you have notes cards you can use these.
Do not just whizz through it once or twice. Do it a number of times until you are quite comfortable. In particular learn the opening words off by heart as well as the final closing lines. If you might be asked questions, then think about what you might be asked and practice answering these too.
In particular, practice the transitions between sections and slides so your talk goes smoothly and not in fits and starts.
If you can, do a dress rehearsal in the room where the presentation will be. Imagine the audience there. Go all the way through without stopping. Use full technology, voice and body language.
And nothing beats practice in a real situation. Look initially for smaller and less critical presentations, for example doing a conference presentation initially at lunchtime to a group of friends or in work meetings.
You can also get practice by taking on presentations wherever you can find them.
A person new in the field of sales development practices their product presentation assiduously. They ask for feedback from other sales people and try to learn when watching others. They also volunteer for as many presentation activities as they can. Before long their abilities increase in line with their comfort in doing the presentations.
There is a saying, that 'Practice makes perfect'. Whilst perfection may be challenged there is a great deal of truth in this, because practice certainly does increase ability.
Yet speakers often do not practice. Why? Often because to practice is to experience the anxiety of the presentation itself, and so we make all kinds of excuses, putting off the pressure which, paradoxically, would be much less if we took time to practice.
The rate of improvement with practice will vary. Some people will get much better very quickly. Others take more time. We also tend to plateau, spending periods when we do not seem to be improving and where it is easy to give up. But with persistence we will eventually start improving again.
A secret is in getting feedback and planning specific improvements. If we can see ourselves as others see us then we can work on the bits that are less effective, whether it is a tendency to say 'um' a lot or speaking too quietly.
It is possible to over-do practice, particularly in the short term where you can exhaust yourself. It is a good idea not to practice on the day of a presentation. Rather, stay relaxed and keep fresh for the event itself.