The secret isn’t innate confidence.
It isn’t a good slide deck, either.
It’s not positive, pre-show affirmations.
It’s not killer quotes, “life changing” stories, or hilarious content.
It definitely isn’t picturing your audience in their underwear.*
The above all play a part in great presentations (with the exception of the underwear visualization), but they aren’t the real ‘secrets’ of amazing presenters.
The secret is practice.
Yes, it’s that simple. Yes, it’s that boring.
Amazing presenters practice. They practice their proverbial tails off.
Their practice happens throughout the creation process. While creating draft after draft, they practice the material, testing it out to see how it sounds, making sure they can deliver the information and intonation they want time and again. They toss out what doesn’t work, improve what does, and continue to practice even after they’ve written the final draft of notes.
They practice in short bursts. They practice in long, marathon sessions. They run through their presentation in little chunks and go through the whole thing without stopping.
When it’s time to perform the presentation for the first time in front of their intended audience, they’ve already delivered it dozens of times in their practice sessions. And when they are booked to give that same talk in front of the next audience, they’ll practice it again, tweaking and refining the content. This represents hours of work for each and every performance. When developing a new presentation, I anticipate spending a good twenty to forty hours writing, crafting, and practicing.
Now I fully realize that not everyone has the option to put in this many hours. But I have found that for the most part, people are able to find the time if the presentation is important and they are motivated to do a good job. If they aren’t, the schedule magically fills with make-work that fritters away that precious practice time.
But no matter what your time restrictions, you must find the time to practice. If you can’t find 20 hours, look for 15. If you can’t find 15, look for 10. Don’t waste time looking for clever presentation hacks or shortcuts, because they don’t exist. If you want to be amazing, be prepared to put in an amazing amount of work.
And be proud that you did. Because in the end, it’ll be worth it.
*Please stop asking me about the whole audience-in-underwear as a half-joke. I hate having to fake-laugh at it.