You’re gearing up to give an important presentation that you’ve been preparing (or even dreading) for weeks, and the moment of truth has officially come. You know what to expect: nerves (that may extend all the way to the bathroom), jitters, sweaty palms, butterflies, and self-doubt. Thoughts like, What if I mess up, freeze, or worse yet, forget what I was talking about?! may arise. Just like that, performance anxiety has reared its head. And as if those common presentation fears weren’t enough to deal with, now many have to contend with the added element of presenting virtually, given the rise in working remotely as a result of the pandemic. Since this poses its own set of challenges, virtual presentation tips are more necessary than ever.
But there is good news to derive from this dynamic: According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, the relationship between stress and performance can be positive. It states that a person’s level of performance often increases with heightened mental stress, but that’s only up to an optimal point. Past that level, stress can give way to anxiety that poses a negative effect on performance.
In practice, this can mean that someone who is easily overwhelmed might feel more anxious when speaking in front of an audience while someone else may thrive in the presence of other people because that group energy simply doesn’t stress them out. Now, in terms of how the virtual landscape plays in, those who may be predisposed to experience performance anxiety may find that the physical distance from audience members to be comforting, and less triggering to feelings of overwhelming nerves. (Plus, there’s the added benefit of literal comfort in being able to decide whether to sit or stand, wear PJs or pants at all, etc.)
Of course, there are new pressures involved, like the need for the internet to work smoothly, to eliminate at-home distractions like pets and family members, and to master the art of great lighting. Furthermore, video calls make it even easier for audiences to lose focus, putting more pressure on the presenter to be compelling.
All of this to say is that presenting in normal circumstances can be scary, and in this new remote-working landscape, there are many new factors to consider—for better or worse. If the digital shift is a scary prospect for you, though, don’t worry: Rounded up below are eight virtual presentation tips to help things flow more smoothly.
8 virtual presentation tips to keep in mind when prepping for big meetings.
One of the best predictors for having a great presentation is preparation. Ensure that you’re familiar with your topic, making notes or a script for your presentation. Refer to your notes with ease by creating a split-screen on your device. Jot down a few key words to serve as thought starters, and have them positioned just off to the side.
Next, visualize yourself doing an incredible performance to increase the likelihood of a great presentation in the future. The part of the brain that is activated when you are physically executing an activity is also activated and strengthened when you are visualizing. Once you have prepared your material, you can start visualizing yourself giving an awesome presentation as you lead up to go-time.
Now that you have prepared the material, you must physically practice delivering that to your audience. The more comfortable you get with your material, the less anxious you may feel when gearing up to do your actual presentation. Rehearse as many times as you feel comfortable and then trust that you have prepared enough to execute it well.
4. Breath deeply and meditate
Deep breathing and meditation can be quite beneficial in alleviating performance anxiety by slowing down one’s heart rate and creating a calming effect. They can be done at any time throughout the prep process and just prior to actually presenting.
5. Eliminate distractions
If you share a space with others (e.g., roommate or family), make sure that you give yourself enough time to create an optimal presentation space. Specify and communicate the amount of time that you will need.
Do deep breathing and meditation, dance to your favorite song, go over your material or script, listen to some calming music, or just sit quietly to help shake off those nerves anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before your presentation. The moments right before your presentation are important for cultivating your focus for having a strong presentation.
7. Set your intention
Set a mini-goal for yourself that you can celebrate achieving. For example, your goal could be to execute this presentation better than your last one, or it could be to have an impact on just one person in the audience.
8. Pick your presentation audience view
If seeing all audience members on your screen is overwhelming, perhaps switching to a view where fewer people are visible, or decreasing your window size, may be a better solution.
Lastly, focus only on what you can control and enjoy yourself, and take comfort in knowing that there are solutions to counteract it. In these unusual times, a little bit of prep, some rehearsal, and giving yourself some grace can go a long way to mitigate these feelings.
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