How to combat the fear of presentation skills

How to combat the fear of presentation skills

An aspect of their role that many lawyers and accountants often dread is having to do a formal presentation – sometimes even if is only to a small group of people. It’s probably no surprise that when we are appointed as the learning and development partner to professional services firms, delivering a presentation skills workshop is one of the most requested courses!


These workshops are a very popular learning and development training session with all of our clients because presentation skills are an important part of winning new business. Although confident in their area of specialism, lawyers and accountants tend to struggle with confidence and dread having to present. This is often simply because they just do not feel comfortable presenting and fear getting into a situation in which they may appear to lack expertise. Fortunately, there are skills and techniques theGrogroup can help you can develop in order to present with confidence.


Our presentation skills programme is very practical and involve tools that will help you prepare properly so that you can hold your audience attention. Our experience is that people who have conquered their nerves and are considered to be good presenters are the ones who are well prepared. We all know that preparation is vital, but sometimes we don’t always get around to preparing as much as we would have liked. I do know experienced presenters who are able to “wing” it, when required, but they are not the norm!


However, the more you understand what is required and the tips and techniques you can use to help you, the more able and confident you will be to deal with the unexpected. There are some useful tips in the article “Fifteen ways to calm your nerves before a big presentation.”


You may well have recognised some of these tips, you may have even adopted one or two and you may still be dreading that next presentation. Often, the main issue is fear itself. Once we are able to confront and deal with our fear we are in a stronger position to present effectively.


Indeed, we can be our own worst enemy at times, with our inner voice telling us how disastrous our upcoming presentation is likely to be! A lack of self-confidence is often at the heart of presentation blues. Fortunately, there are things we can do to change our self-image and increase our confidence.


In the article “3 surprising ways to feel more confident at workKatya Andresen describes simple, straightforward tips for helping us to feel good about ourselves. Research has shown that we can positively influence our physiology and mental attitude with these techniques. The more we feel strong about ourselves, the more likely we are to find strength when it comes to making that presentation.


Inspirational leaders often inspire others through their ability to orate and present their ideas with passion and self-belief. This self-belief, this certainty in what they believe in is an attractive trait. Another good article to read “Rewire your brain and become a better leader” looks at the neuro-scientific aspects of the techniques we can use to help us influence, inspire and lead others.


Passion and enthusiasm give energy to your presentations, if you truly believe in what you are saying, it is likely to be impressed upon your audience.


Key things to remember:


  • Prepare well.
    • Practice, preferably to someone who will provide honest feedback.
  • Understand your fear.
    • Use techniques to control it.
  • Structure – start with your audience’s needs.
    • What do they need/want to know?
  • Start with a bang. 
    • Highlight your key message and what’s in it for your audience.
  • Back up your message concisely.
    • No unnecessary waffling!
  • Close with a bang.
    • Make it memorable. What is their takeaway?
  • Make it interactive.
    • Whenever possible include and engage with your audience.
  • Vary it.
    • A varied pace and tone will keep things interesting.
  • Make it Dramatic!
    • Uou are in the business of entertaining your audience, dramatic pauses are allowed!
  • Review.
    • Ideally, if possible, record or film your presentation for later review.


If at first you don’t succeed, keep practising, keep learning. Management guru Tom Peters reckons it is well worth the effort, as Tom himself said,

“presentation skills are worthy of extreme obsessive study”


And what about that fear? Well, we fear what we do not know. The more we practise, the more we study and review, the more we know and the less we have to fear.


Well, we’re almost at the end of this article and we haven’t mentioned PowerPoint once! The main thing to remember is that YOU are the message, it is you that makes the presentation interesting and engaging. PowerPoint can help support that message, but wrongly used it can also hinder your message. There is a phrase “Death by PowerPoint” which attests to the perils of over-reliance or over-use of a slide deck!

Garr Reynolds, author ofPresentation Zen” has some useful tips on slide design here.


Finally, most of all, be yourself, a confident, prepared, unafraid self.


If you would like to know more about powerful presenting, please contact get in touch.