One of the things that adds to the anxiety around making a presentation is that people confuse it with public speaking. The difference is huge and very meaningful. Public speaking is what politicians do. It’s what CEOs do at annual meetings. It’s what statesmen do at the UN.
When you make a presentation, it is almost always an intimate communications between you and a small audience, and that communications is almost always a two way dialogue. Public speaking is where you make a speech to a larger group and, when finished, leave the stage, hopefully to thunderous applause. No conversation. While both forms of speaking cause anxiety, making a presentation could be a lot easier on your stress level if you think of it as a conversation.
Also, the audience is usually much more interested in what you have to say in a presentation than in a speech. You are standing in front of them at a presentation because you probably have information that will help them do their job or live their life better. You are delivering helpful advice. You’re a good citizen! Giving a speech tends to be more esoteric and pie in the sky. It could still be useful and often very important, but it is usually not as immediate.
Presentations are shorter than speeches. A presentation might be ten minutes prior to the Q&A. Speeches are long. Bill Clinton’s speech at the DMC is still going on.
In a speech, you are talking to an audience of strangers. You know something about them but typically not enough to customize your speech to their needs. In a presentation you know exactly who you are talking to and what floats their boat. You’re not shooting blind. You have a clear target and you know what motivates them.
In a speech it may be you at a podium on a stage facing an audience. In a presentation you are standing at a conference room table or sitting across from clients.
Speeches use lots of oratory devices. Grand gestures. A presentation is about identifying what the takeaway is from what you are going to say and packaging it as a benefit for the audience. You need to make a strong business open and close. And the close doesn’t have to be killer. It needs to summarize your key points and then ask for an action step.
It’s hard not to be anxious when speaking to any size group. But, understanding that a presentation is a more intimate conversation with a smaller group of people, who you know a lot about and where you are discussing things that will make their life easier should help your confidence and stress level. You are not giving a speech. You are having a chat about how you can help. You’re doing that chat in a manner that conveys your confident and care about them.