7 Tips for Presenting When the Stakes Are High

Written by Nadine Dereza Monday 10 December 2018
A new book from a CMI fellow tells us how to nail public speaking
public speaker

Presenting in public is an act of leadership. Here is a tick-list of helpful tips for high-pressure scenarios.

1. Remember You’re In Charge

The way to project yourself properly is to do so with authority ­– even if everyone else in the room ranks higher than you. It’s a psychological habit to defer to those with greater social power and look to them for input. However, when given the platform to speak it may be useful to overlook existing professional roles and focus on your own insight.

2. Respect The Audience

Having said that, the most important people in the presentation is the audience. If you treat them with respect, you will get it back, which in return will help increase your confidence. So, don’t go in with an antagonistic demeanour. Tailor your message for those you are speaking to and remember that audience members overwhelmingly want you to do well.

3. Don’t Open With An Apology For Being There

Don’t undermine yourself when you start speaking. If the first words out of your mouth are an apology for being somewhere, or you admit to being under-prepared, the audience will start to worry about you rather than listen to what you have to say.

4. Read Around The Topic

Imagine the event is running late you are told you have to cut down your presentation from twenty-minutes to ten. Do you follow the script and stop mid-sentence as the clock hits ten minutes? Of course not. When you know the core messages, you can tailor it to fit the allotted time and also respond in a more relaxed way to questions.

You should always know more about a subject than you have put in your speech, as this will help you to feel at ease.

5. Manage Your Nerves

When you’re very nervous and the spotlight is on you, it’s easy to have an out-of-body experience where you find yourself speaking and have no idea what's coming out of your mouth next. What do you do?

Settle your nerves by pausing and take a deep breath to gather your composure. This will feel like a lifetime to you on stage, but for the audience it will be just a few seconds. Remember, you’re in control of the room, the audience, and especially yourself. Just like in point two, if the audience thinks you’re out of control, they will be uncomfortable. If they see you take control back, they will respect you.

Some speakers are naturally more nervous than others and may have a surge of adrenaline just before presenting. If this is you, in advance of your presentation, practise deep breathing techniques to steady your voice and clear your head.

To help you feel prepared, ensure you ask the organiser at a venue what the solution is if there is a technical issue that hinders your speech.

Read more: Why taking a pause will help you

6. Bad News? An Upbeat Tone Can Work

Even if your presentation is on a serious topic, remember you are giving the audience information that is helpful, comforting or will save them from disaster. Therefore, don’t be afraid to enjoy the experience and speak in a relaxed way.

7. Do An Immediate Post Mortem

When you have finished the presentation, try to feel satisfied with what you have done. Ask yourself what changes you can make for the next time you speak soon after your performance: this will help to build a clear memory of the event and provide more constructive pointers for the future.

Nadine Dereza

Nadine Dereza

CNBC business presenter, Co-author of Insider Secrets of Public Speaking, a Fellow of the CMI and a 2019 judge of The Business Book Awards