How to Be a Confident Presenter in Business – Step-by-Step Guide

How to banish your fear of public speaking

…and become a confident presenter

How to present confidently? There is no one cure for the fear of public speaking.  Each person is different. At the same time, whatever your fears, they can be overcome and you can present confidently.

You can be a confident presenter if you follow these simple steps. Then, you will look confident, feel confident and ultimately become confident about public speaking. How do you present confidently at work? We have coached thousands of business people to help them deliver confident persuasive talks and presentations. Whether you are presenting to the board, to clients or to your colleagues, you can learn how present confidently.

Ten top tips to present confidently

  1. Start planning early

  2. Make the talk about your audience

  3. Start your presentation strong

  4. Use a clear presentation structure

  5. Look confident by bringing your presentation to life

  6. Talk to one person at a time

  7. Present confidently by using short phrases and short words

  8. Be a confident presenter by using plenty of pauses

  9. Show confidence: Look people in the eye

  10. Be a more confident presenter with practise

  11. BONUS TIP – Get rid of any UMMS and ERRS

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How to present confidently

1. Confident presenting: Start planning your presentation early

As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Start work as soon as you can and let your talk evolve. A few notes on a blank sheet of paper is the perfect beginning. The less public speaking you do, the more preparation you need. Even experienced speakers will tell you the value of time in creating a great confident talk.

2.  Presenting confidently: Turn your presentation so it’s about them, not about you

This is one of the most powerful techniques to help build confidence. By repositioning your talk so it’s about the audience rather then about you, you’ll find it easier to be confident and engaging.

For example, rather than talking about “What we did to make this project a success” talk about “How this project will help you achieve your sales targets.”

The more you make your presentation about your audience rather than about you, you’ll feel less focus on you. For example, use the word ‘you’ throughout your talk. In that way you can begin to present confidently.

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3. How to sound confident presenting: Craft a powerful start

When you start well, it’s easier to continue well. Your first 30 seconds are the most important part of your talk. If unsure how to start, use a tried and tested approach to starting your presentation. Get your start right and the rest will feel much easier.

4. How to present confidently: Use a clear structure

If you make it easy for your audience to follow your talk, you will make it easier for you to give it. Generally it is smarter to have a few good ideas covered well rather than a lot of ideas covered quickly. Give yourself a strong start, a simple logical framework and a powerful end.

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5. How to be a confident presenter: Bring your talk to life

Beware of a fact-laden presentation. The best talks are animated with stories, metaphors, observations and personal anecdotes. One story is worth a dozen pages of data.

6. How to present confidently: Talk to one person at a time

Unless you really are a politician who needs to win thousands of votes, beware of declaiming to the masses. Instead imagine your talk as a conversation – one person at a time. You will find it much easier to give your talk when you use the same language, structure and phrasing that you use when talking to one person.

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7. How to be a confident presenter: Use short phrases and short words

Winston Churchill said “Short words are best and old words when short are the best of all.” Edit your talk to use shorter, simpler phrases and words. The simpler you can make it, the more authoritative and confident you will sound.

8. How to sound confident presenting: Include plenty of pauses

Pauses in your talk – are like white space in a piece of design. They give it meaning and form. A pause is a time for your audience to absorb what you have said – and for you to compose your next phrase. This is particularly important when presenting online. Use them to separate ideas – and point your audience to what is important. Learn how to pause when presenting.

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9. How to present confidently: Look people in the eye

When you have eye contact it is
(1)  more interesting for your audience, and
(2) helps you adjust to the pace of your audience.

Aim to speak to one person for each sentence or two.

10. How to become confident for ever: Practise

You can make yourself confident through practice.  Psychological research says that those who pretend to be confident eventually become more confident. So, learn how to look confident and then continue. Fake it until you make it.

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You may be surprised to find how many known public speakers actually share a fear of public speaking. But they know they have to look good to be successful. So they work at it, often with professional coaches and trainers. Over the years we have helped many CEOs and senior executives overcome their fear of public speaking.

You can do the same.

Remember: we all feel nervous when we talk in public. This is a good thing.  If we didn’t feel nervous public speaking, then we would not be taking our work seriously. Use these tips for confident business presentations.

Even Churchill had a fear of public speaking

First thing to realise is that everyone good feels nervous when presenting. Even Winston Churchill, did not like public speaking and felt uncomfortable doing so. But, like many of us, he realised that to succeed in his profession he had to focus his nervous energy.

Use your nervous energy to look confident

Your nervous energy can be used and channelled. Much of the feeling of nerves is because of a rush of adrenaline that can be used for fright or flight. The trick that successful speakers use is to focus the energy into their talk. Rather than a wobbly voice, shaking hands or nervous body posture, you can channel the energy into a louder voice, more animated talking or stronger hand gestures.

Use relaxation exercises to reduce speaking nerves

For different people, different relaxation exercises work. Some of the most common exercises include:

  • slow, steady breathing
  • imaging a smiling happy audience
  • rapid shaking of hands;
  • holding your fingers in the OM mudra position

Your nerves don’t show – you look like a confident speaker

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we often use cameras in our business presentation training. We use these to show that even when you feel nervous, you can look confident when presenting. Most of the time the audience is unaware of the inner turmoil that a speaker is going through. By demonstrating that the audience is unaware of a speaker’s inner feelings,  speakers relax more.

BONUS TIP – get rid of UMMS, ERRS and Verbal Ticks

If your talks are full of verbal tics, like ‘UMM’ ‘ERR’ and ‘Y’know’ then you have a problem. These verbal tics make you look unconfident. But they can be cured.

Why is this important?  Because if you do not address this, you will not be seen as a confident public speaker and you are limiting your career success. If you have these verbal tics you are seen as less certain, less impressive and less competent.

The good news is that you can cure yourself of ums and errs.  Without them, you will look more confident and you will feel like a confident public speaker. With our clients, we use a step-by-step method to get rid of ums and errs.  It works like this:

STEP 1 – Get Rid Of Umms and Errs – Make A Commitment

This process does not take long, but it can be frustrating. 

If you really want to succeed, then you need to be sure you are ready to put in the time and the effort needed.

STEP 2 – Get Rid Of Umms and Errs – Find A Friend

And take your friend into a a room where you can work. Get a pencil and a glass. Now you are ready to start.

STEP 3 – Get Rid Of Umms and Errs – Start Your Talk

Start your talk from the beginning. 

As you speak listen to yourself. Aim to replace every ‘um’ or ‘err’ with a pause.  This will be challenging – and your performance will be terrible – but that does not matter (at this stage).

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STEP 4 – Get Rid Of Umms and Errs – Avoid any Pings

Ask your friend to listen to your talk and, every time they hear a significant um or err, they are to tap on the glass. You job is to avoid the pings. If you hear a ping, start your talk again.

STEP 5 – Be a confident speaker – Keep at it. 

For many people, about 5 minutes of this exercise is enough to start the process of getting rid of verbal tics. Try the exercise again 2 or 3 times during a week.  And in any communication during the week – eg talks, meetings, phone calls, aim to eliminate these verbal tics.  Be persistent – it can be frustrating.

It could well be that within a week, you will have cured yourself of this bad habit.  As a result, you will sound more confident and impressive as a public speaker.

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We can help you present confidently

You can become a confident public speaker.  Not only can we help you get rid of umms and errs, we can craft your words, structure your talks and polish your performance.  We can do this face to face or over Skype. Cann us today and discuss what you need.

If you want help to be a more confident public speaker, contact Louise Angus, client services director at Benjamin Ball Associates on +44 20 7018 0922.

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Become a Confident Speaker in Three Steps

Do you fear public speaking? Do you feel nervous when you stand up and speak?  Does it make your heart race or your body go sweaty?

Fear of public speaking is widespread.  When we coach people to become better public speakers, it’s one of the most common problems we see.  What many people don’t know is that many famous people also share this fear.  Winston Churchill is a great example of a leader who did not enjoy public speaking, but you would never guess that he felt uncomfortable.

In fact, many of the CEOs we work with have admitted to sharing this same fear.  One CEO of a FTSE 250 company even told us: “All my life I have avoided presentations.  But now I am the CEO and I have staff, shareholders and analysts all who want me to present.  What do I do?”

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How To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

First, there is no simple solution to conquering your fear of public speaking.  Each person is different.  Some people suggest that you should imagine your audience naked. We are not great believers in that approach.  But, if that works for you, great.

A few weeks ago we worked with an Irish woman at a large oil company.  She was convinced that she was a terrible public speaker. She hated public speaking and that she believed she would never enjoy speaking in public.  After working with her for a few hours she (and we) realised that she had a real talent.  She was sharp and she was witty. She could harness words and humour to transform complex ideas into clear communication.  Afterwards, she understood that she had to completely rethink her self image. Then she could demonstrate her huge public speaking talent.

The Benjamin Ball Associates approach to overcoming the fear of public speaking is a 3-step process:

STEP 1 – Overcome the fear of public speaking by starting with a good talk

Most public speaking problems occur because the presentation is crap.  If you start with a poor talk, it’s going to be a poor performance and you have every right to feel scared.  A great talk is easier to deliver.  There is plenty of advice in this blog about how to write a brilliant management presentation.

STEP 2 – Change the relationship between you and the audience

Does a teacher feel scared when standing up in front of pupils every day?  Does a lecturer feel scared when speaking to students?  Work out what your audience will get from your talk.  Then, like a teacher, set out to make sure you achieve your goal. By having a clear goal, it is easier to feel less exposed when speaking. Speak directly to your audience, as you would to a friend.

STEP 3 – Overcome your fear of public speaking through practice

You get better by practising.  And practice does not mean going through your first written draft over and over again.  It means testing your first script, refining what does not work so you make it better and better each time.  When I prepare for a big talk, I might  change half my talk during the practice. “If you falter, alter.” should be your preparation motto.

There is no simple solution to reducing presentation nerves.  It’s something that gets better over time.   But to reduce your presentation nerves you need to work at it.

Anyone can be a confident public speaker, it just takes practice.

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About Benjamin Ball Associates

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.

Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.

We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.

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Contact us to transform your presenting skills

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

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