Words by Carlie Tucker
There's no shortage of studies and surveys that rank public speaking as one of the most common fears for people around the globe. There's just something about being in front of an expectant crowd that sends you into full-on sweat mode. It's even worse if you're a business traveller that has to step off the plane and in front of a group of unfamiliar faces for a big pitch.
We may not be able to alleviate all the anxiety that comes with presenting on the road, but we can provide you with a few helpful tips on how to prepare while you're on the go.
What You Need
As with all aspects of business travel, the first step towards success is packing right. Obviously you'll want to look presentable but that's another article. We're talking tech here. There are a few things you definitely don't want to forget when you're packing the laptop bag.
- Laptop: This one is a given, but seriously. Don't forget it.
- Back-up USB: It's always a great idea to put your presentation on a back-up source. From incompatible laptops to mystery malfunctions, if you have your presentation on a back-up USB, you can skip presentation-killing hiccups by plugging into a different computer.
- Chargers: If you were questioning whether or not you really need to pack all your chords for this fly-in fly-out presentation that will only take 15 minutes, the answer is yes. Even if you're 100% charged up, it's better safe than sorry.
- Cables: If you need to hook up to anything, make sure you bring the cable for it to avoid the inevitable last minute set up scramble. If it's not viable to bring this stuff with you, call ahead to make sure it will be available when you arrive.
- Presentation remote and extra batteries: If you need a remote, it's best to bring your own that you've used before to avoid awkward pauses while you try to figure out how to work the remote.
- Gadgets: From pocket projectors to mini Bluetooth speakers, there's plenty of technology out there to help you get through your presentation. While not essential, these cool little gadgets can be convenient. Be sure to toss them in your bag if you're using them.
- Bottle of water: Sure, you can usually get water anywhere you go, but why leave it up to chance? Stuff a small bottle into your bag just in case.
In the scramble to finish everything off in preparation for a day or two out of the office and pack for your trip, it's easy to push presentation prep time to the back burner. If you didn't get the chance to actually prepare yourself, not to worry. You can always do this on the plane. Here are a few tips:
- Scrutinise your content: When going through your notes or slides, put yourself in the shoes of your audience and ask the all important, 'so what?' Why would your audience need this information? If you can't give yourself a reasonable answer, cut it out. Your overall goal is to focus on one clear message.
- Formatting: Along the same lines as above, take the time to format all your slides. Don't worry about tricky fades, jazzy photos or pretty fonts. Stick to the basics to ensure your content is easy to read and understand without any distractions. This includes one solid graphic per slide if applicable, a serif font such as Times New Roman sized at least 24 (easiest to read) and light blue backgrounds (again, easier to read).
- Practice: With the editing out of the way, the only thing left is practice. The best way to do this is stand up and deliver. Of course, you don't want to be disruptive to fellow passengers, so be mindful of those around you before you jump up and start rattling off your speech. If you have the option, head to the business lounge and run through your notes. Alternatively, you can quietly read through your presentation to yourself or a colleague sitting with you on the plane. If possible, ask for feedback. It's the best way to understand how your presentation will flow, where you will pause and points that might need some emphasis.
Performing For Your Audience
There's a seemingly endless list of tips and tricks available on how to give a perfect presentation. Everyone has their own unique technique, but there are a few universal tips to keep in mind to help ensure things go off without a hitch:
- Double check your appearance. Knowing that you look presentable is a great boost in confidence.
- Stand up straight, take a deep breath and smile to calm your nerves before you start.
- Lead with an interesting anecdote to grab your audience's attention.
- Speak slowly. With all the adrenalin running through your body, you may start to speak too quickly for people to understand you. Remind yourself to slow down and take your time.
- Don't read your speech, but don't memorise it either. You don't want to sound like a robot while you're talking. Know all the key points by heart, glancing at your notes for memory cues. Move around if possible and maintain comfortable eye contact with your audience.
- Leave time for questions at the end, and prepare a couple of your own questions in case no one asks one.
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