We’ve all been there: you’re getting ready to give a big presentation and feeling beyond nervous. Sweaty hands, sped-up heart rate, mind racing — the works. While the rational part of your brain knows you’ll be fine, for many people, that doesn’t do much to erase the building anxiety.
As a brand or marketing manager, you’ll be called upon many times throughout your career to give important speeches and presentations — to explain your strategies to C-levels or present your brand to an audience. Thus, whether or not public speaking is currently included in your arsenal of talents, you’ll need to find a way to master it.
This article will take a look at a few different reasons presentations can cause anxiety and provide actionable steps to move beyond any worries so you can perform your best. After all, with enough practice, anyone can become a good public speaker — you just have to be willing to invest the required time and energy.
Why Do Presentations Make People Nervous?
There are myriad reasons why presentations make people feel nervous — not everyone is inherently comfortable being the center of attention.
For you, maybe it’s:
Having to stand at the front of a room while people stare at you.
The fear that you’ll forget your planned speaking points.
The worry that you’ll make a mistake.
The fear that people will find your presentation boring or uninspired.
Whatever the root of your presentation anxiety, it all comes down to one thing: you’re afraid that others won’t believe you’re good at your job.
Of course, this fear may not be rational — after all, your success as a public speaker is not a direct reflection of your success as a brand manager. However, most modern professionals will be expected to give a presentation or two throughout their careers — especially those that work in front-facing departments like marketing.
Nevertheless, it’s helpful to remember that being a good public speaker is only one part of being a top-notch brand or marketing manager. There’s so much more that goes into excelling in such a role. You have to be creative, hard-working, innovative, and flexible — always ready to try new things and take a risk.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to practice your public speaking skills to ensure you’re ready for any and all challenges that come your way.
Why Do Brand Managers (In Particular) Need To Master Public Speaking?
In our day and age, brand managers in particular are often forced to serve as branding evangelists — working hard to convince colleagues and supervisors of the merit of their campaigns and activities.
Thus, while you don’t have to love public speaking, you will likely have to achieve a certain level of comfort to succeed in this type of role. From informal presentations for your colleagues to update them on recent branding activities to more high-stakes quarterly reviews for the C-Suite, brand managers will engage in a wide range of presentations.
If you’re someone who isn’t as comfortable as you’d like to be when it comes to public speaking, consider the three tips listed below. Additionally, you can check out our “How to Share Insights So Stakeholders Pay Attention” guide for even more insight.
3 Practical Tips To Gain Confidence
Like learning any other skill, becoming a good public speaker requires practice. However, not everyone knows where to start on the road to building this kind of confidence.
Therefore, we’ve put together three practical tips you can use to help you achieve your goals and improve your presentation skills.
1. Practice: Start Small & Build Steadily
Anxious about presenting to a large audience of important people? Have a bone-deep fear of public speaking? Take a step back and a deep breath — there’s a strategy for this.
If you know you have a big presentation on the horizon, do yourself a favor and set up a few practice sessions. Start small — perhaps with one or two colleagues you trust to serve as your practice audience members. Reserve a meeting room or set up a video conference and invite them to listen and provide feedback.
You don’t necessarily need to give the presentation you’re preparing for — sometimes it’s helpful to just practice speaking in front of other people about a topic you like. Either way, setting up a few practice sessions with colleagues or friends is a great way to dispel some of the jitters and gather more confidence.
Next — if possible — ask your supervisor if they’d be willing to listen to your presentation a few days before the big day. This way, they can provide feedback and give advice, and you have enough time to include it.
Plus, when you give your official presentation, you have one less person to worry about. If you were able to set up a practice session, you already know your supervisor approves and is there to support you.
Finally, it can also be helpful to give the presentation to… yourself. Set up your laptop to record and run through your presentation from start to finish. Later, when you watch the video, you can gather helpful information — like if you should slow down, add more pauses, or make more eye contact with the crowd.
No matter what option(s) you choose to practice, you’ll feel much more confident when you’ve been over the material and already presented it to other people.
2. Create an Outline & Highlight Key Points
One of the biggest fears people have about giving presentations is that they forget their talking points or fumble over their words. One of the best ways to combat this issue is to come prepared with an outline.
After you’ve finished up a somewhat final version of your presentation, go through and highlight the most important parts. Then use this info to create a structure — this way you can see if your presentation is missing any important information or repeating itself.
Once you have your outline completed, feel free to create flashcards or add notes to your slide deck — bullet points and short phrases will do just fine.
Be careful not to include a word-for-word script, as this can often backfire by making you appear stiff and robotic. Instead, only write down the key points of each section. That way, if you stumble over your words or forget your train of thought, you have a perfect reminder at hand.
It’s also a good idea to share your outline with a colleague or supervisor beforehand, as a new set of eyes can often spot mistakes or gaps in your flow. Ideally, one should be able to understand the broad strokes of your presentation by reading your outline alone.
Finally, take the time to consider how you will open and close your presentation — after all, fumbling in the first minute or two is never a great way to kick off speaking in public. Oftentimes, we spend so much time preparing the main content we forget to think of interesting, engaging ways to begin and end it.
With this part of your presentation planned as well, you’re much more likely to begin with confidence.
3. Calm Your Mind & Body Beforehand
Nerves are inevitable for most people before a big presentation. And though it may seem like an obvious fix, many people neglect to take real steps to calm their minds and bodies beforehand.
A great way to deal with both mind and body is to meditate or practice mindfulness. Even just a 10-minute meditation can make all the difference. Many people forget that calming the body through something as simple as breathing exercises will do wonders to help calm the mind.
So instead of pacing or fidgeting while your mind races, find a quiet place to be alone. Give yourself 15-20 minutes before the presentation to relax. Try out breathing exercises or listen to a mindfulness exercise — whatever helps you to get out of your head and lower your stress levels.
Apps like Calm and Headspace are great resources for those that want to try out meditation and mindfulness before a big presentation. From guided meditations to breathing exercises, there’s lots to choose from.
But no matter which approach you take, it’s important to slow down and take the time to relax before giving your presentation. If you’re rushing to finish up a slide or reading through your outline for the 57th time, it’s unlikely you’ll be calm and collected when your presentation begins.
Remember, if you suffer from presentation anxiety, you’re not alone. Everyone has had to face down their nerves at one point or another — be it in school, their job, or their personal life.
And while there’s no magic fix to cure presentation or social anxiety, with practice, preparation, and the right mind frame, you can improve your public speaking skills over time. And you know what else will help you feel confident? Reliable brand data.
Brand managers who are looking to enhance their presentations and grow more confident in their public speaking skills need look no further — advanced brand tracking software will provide the data and insights you need to level up any presentation. Because when you can back up your campaigns and activities with accurate data, there’s so much less to be worried about.