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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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Dear Career Coach,
I get very nervous at the thought of public speaking and I’ve been told that in my new role, I will be expected to deliver presentations to our senior leadership team. How can I conquer my nerves and deliver presentations more professionally?

Although it’s probably of little comfort to you, public speaking is often identified in surveys as being the number one thing that people fear. Even the most articulate and confident people can quake at the thought of addressing a roomful of people, so you are not alone in feeling intimated by the idea.

When we focus on ourselves and how we are feeling about a situation, we lose sight of the point of the exercise: to communicate. The fact is that when you are delivering a presentation at work, it is your chance to share your knowledge and insights with people who not only need the information that you have, but who can also be influential in progressing your career. For that reason, it’s important not to waste the opportunity by putting your energy into how you are feeling. Instead , concentrate on what you want them to learn and to remember about you.

The following tips will help you with planning and delivering a great presentation.

  • Know your audience. It’s really important that you pitch your communication in the right way to the people involved. What is the best way of delivering the information; slides, graphs, text or a combination of all three?
  • Know your message. What are the key things you want them to know as a result of listening to you? Don’t try to cover too much information at once; rather make these key messages clear right from the beginning and reiterate them throughout your presentation.
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  • Know your topics. Be ready to take questions and to provide further details as your audience may need. Use relevant examples, data and case studies to illustrate your point and key messages.
  • Know how to project. Speak clearly and try not to rush your words; your audience is ready and willing to listen, so you can take your time. Stand up straight and project your voice clearly and you will sound more confident than you might feel. Smiling will help to keep your voice sounding warm and engaged. Try to sound enthusiastic and to use positive language; presentations that are focused on solutions and not just on identifying problems are much more impactful.
  • Know how to use PowerPoint. If you do need to use slides, keep the text to a minimum and don’t simply read out everything on each slide. Keep the words on a slideshow to a minimum; they should serve as a prompt for the points you want to make. You want your audience to focus on you and what you are saying, not on the words on the screen.

Ultimately, the most effective safeguard against nerves is preparation. The more you practice to deliver the presentation and prepare for any follow-up questions, the less stressed you will feel.

All the best!

Need some help to solve your career dilemma? Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced careers coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you get back on track with your career.

From online CV checking to face-to-face coaching and presentation skills training to making the right impact at interview, our careers services will help you reach your goals.

Contact us now to discuss your needs: careers@reconnectafrica.com

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