All professional salespeople have to be involved in a presentation at some time in their sales career, but when it comes to the enthusiasm that sales professionals have for making a presentation, they broadly fall into four categories:
The Avoider: An Avoider does everything possible to escape from having to stand in front of an audience.
The Register: A Register is also extremely hesitant of speaking in public. They may not be able to avoid speaking as part of their job, but they never encourage it.
The Acceptor: The Acceptor will give presentations as part of the job, but does not seek opportunities to do so.
The Seeker: A Seeker actively looks for opportunities to speak. They understand that anxiety can be a stimulant that fuels enthusiasm during a presentation.
Becoming a Seeker is a prerequisite for sales success! So, how do we get those butterflies flying in formation?
The first thing to remember is that anxiety and nerves mean you are alive -- and without them, your resulting presentation would be like you: dead!
What you need to do is learn to control your anxiety and use it to fuel your enthusiasm.
To control your anxiety, you must identify what it is that you are afraid of. Is it forgetting your lines? Is it the audience size? Once you have established what exactly you are afraid of, then establish whether or not you can control it.
Imagine you are the captain of an airliner. Do you fear flying? Of course not(although you may fear crashing), because you are in complete control of not only the aircraft, but also the crew and the passengers.
You have a flight plan, and before you take off, you know the payload, weather conditions for the flight, arrival time, departure time, etc. However, what is most significant is that you are familiar with flying, and you are comfortable with all of that responsibility, because you have flown so many times before and you know virtually everything there is to know about that aircraft.
Therein lies the secret: The more presentations we deliver, the more accomplished we become. However, we must know what we are talking about -- we must know our subject matter inside out. Otherwise our audience will find us out.
Let's consider the areas that you can control:
Your audience: After all, you invited them.
Your material: You designed it.
Your resources: You chose to utilize them.
Yourself: You're no puppet.
If there are any areas you've identified that you can't control, forget them -- it'll probably never happen.
Controlling Nerves and Reducing Anxiety
Organize: Give yourself plenty of time to prepare; know what is going to happen and when. Take the time to rehearse your presentation, preferably with someone you know well. Get them to offer you objective and constructive criticism.
Visualize: Get into the habit of visualizing how the presentation will go; that way, the environment will feel familiar even if it's your first time. Imagine the end of your presentation and your audience smiling with appreciation.
Make notes: Make bullet-point notes on individual postcards to prompt you (not lengthy scripts). You may not need them, but they will give you that "comfort zone." Do remember to number them, though, just in case you accidentally shuffle them.
Relaxation: Before your presentation, take some time for yourself to relax, breathe deeply, go out into the fresh air, and clear your head. Do not allow your mind to mentally rehearse the entire presentation, because you need simply to concentrate on your opening lines. Once you have successfully navigated your way through the first couple of minutes, you will begin to relax. A strong opening is crucial.
Warming up: Clear your throat, practice your smile, drink some water to ensure you are hydrated, etc.
Dress appropriately and check your posture: If you look the part, everyone will assume you know what you are talking about anyway!
Become mobile: It will keep your audience awake.
Use eye contact and smile: They can't fail to pay attention.
And finally -- practice, practice, practice! With time and experience, even the most timid presentation-avoider can become an avid seeker.