Almost all of us will have to speak in front of an audience at some point or another. Whether it’s an internal report to colleagues, an external presentation to current or prospective clients, or a fundraising ask to the local PTA, speaking in public can be nerve wracking, even for those of us who do it frequently.

The most experienced presenters will tell you that they are by no means perfect at what they do, that some presentations go better than others, and that there are multiple factors which can affect the success of even the most well-prepared presentation.

So for those of us who don’t have the confidence of more experienced presenters, what can we do not only to improve our delivery but also to ensure our message is being received (and perhaps control our nerves a bit along the way)?

Remember that you are the presentation.

Many people believe that the presentation is the audio visual (A/V) materials you use—the PowerPoint slides, the full-color handouts. But that’s not true. If that were the case, why not just email the slides and any handouts to your audience? Why bother gathering people together and making them listen to you at all?

The reason of course is that the material is deemed important enough to warrant a live conversation—one in which you are delivering information in as clear and engaging a way as possible, and your audience is able to ask questions to ensure that they grasp and hopefully accept the message.

You are the presentation and so you have a responsibility to do your best work with the information you’re charged with presenting.

You don’t have to be a presentation pro to improve your skills.

Know how I know? Long before joining Jamesson Solutions, when I was just starting my career, I was told I would have to start giving sales trainings all over the country. I was terrified; I wanted to run for my life. But my boss was convinced I could do it.

My first efforts were miserable—for me and my unfortunate trainees. But after every training my boss had a debriefing call with me and insisted I tell him what I had done well (believe me, it was hard for me to think of anything positive to say at first) and what I wanted to do better (obviously, a much longer list). Every time I presented, I learned. I became more confident. My list of positive things grew longer and the “do better’s” got shorter.

My nervousness never went away, even after 25 years conducting trainings with organizations ranging in size from micro-businesses to Fortune 100 companies. Even now, when I teach Presentation Skills 101, one of our flagship workshops, I still get butterflies. But I’ve learned how to manage my nerves. I’ve learned to accept that I will never be a perfect presenter, but the flip side of that is that I can always grow, always get better.

This is most important message I try to get across to workshop attendees. Perfect is not the point. Adopting basic tools and techniques that can make the experience better for you and your audience – that is always the goal.

Over the course of two days, workshop attendees cover the basics of preparing for the most common presentation types – Introduction (of yourself or another speaker), Teaching / Reporting, and Sales/Influence. The course also covers preparation techniques, body language basics (purposeful gestures and movement, tone, pacing, etc.), and audience analysis tools.

The hundreds of managers and executives who have taken the workshop tell us that they particularly value (after some initial nerves) the opportunity to present multiple times with immediate video and peer feedback. We also offer Advanced Presentation Skills for professionals who have more experience but still want to hone their abilities further.

Though I can’t condense everything we do in these courses into a few paragraphs, I have provided some highlights here. Hope they are useful!

For more info: Leveraging Your Behavior Style for Better Presentations

Donna Warrick, President of Jamesson Solutions, Inc., brings solid experience facilitating programs for team development, leadership development, change management, conflict management and presentation skills, and more. She has worked with organizations ranging from small businesses to Global Fortune 100 companies across many industries.