It’s not about you: Four tips for confident presenting in front of an audience

Public speaking doesn't come easily to many and there's no magic formula to overcome the nerves. Instead Michelle Bowden offers four simple tips to make the process a whole lot easier

There’s no single thing or magic formula that is a panacea for a lack of confidence when presenting. There are no short cuts, however, I would say that people who lack confidence should consider a change of approach. Begin by writing a slogan in big letters: It’s not about me, it’s all about my audience! And then try the following four tips:

Analyse the audience – it’s critical to spend some time analysing both the current and desired state of your audience. One way to do this is to ask yourself: ‘What is my audience thinking about me, my message and my department or company?’, ‘What is my audience feeling about me, my message and my department or company?’ and ‘What will the atmosphere or vibe of the room be like before I present?’

This way you know what to expect when you walk in. Then, plan your desired outcome by asking yourself, ‘What do I want my audience to think about me, my message and my department or company?’, ‘What do I want the audience to feel about me, my message and my department or company?’ and ‘What do I want them to do once I have finished talking?’

Structure the message – if you have a nice, tight, well-crafted message and you have designed it with a model that allows you to remember the information without relying on notes, then of course you’ll feel more confident!

I teach three models for the design and structure of a presentation: 13-steps, 4Mat and Storyboarding. These models help you know what to say and when to say it so that the audience’s needs are met and so you are more likely to change their behaviour.

Connect with the people – when it’s time to deliver your presentation it’s essential to re-read your slogan: ‘It’s not about me, it’s all about my audience”, and to look into the whites of your audience’s eyes – really see the individuals in the audience, rather than skim their heads or pretend to look at them.

Know they are real live humans who you have the wonderful opportunity to influence and help.

This takes your focus off your nerves and places your attention on the audience – which in turn enhances your connection or rapport with them.

If you are not focused on yourself, how could you be nervous? Remember, it’s not about you, it’s all about the audience!

Get feedback – in my experience, many people focus a lot on their negative points and their nervousness, rather than on their positive attributes like their voice or their personal presentation.

Setting up a system in your organisation where you can give and receive feedback from others whom you respect, and who are sensitive to your needs, is a great way of finding out what you are doing well. This can boost your confidence tenfold.

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Michelle Bowden

Michelle Bowden is Australia's expert on presenting persuasively in business. She's a best-selling, internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work. For more information visit