How to Boost Confidence Before a Sales Presentation
We’ve all seen persuasive sales presentations that leave the audience enthused, invigorated – and eager to buy. But such compelling presentation styles rarely develop overnight. In fact, such presentations could have been years in the making. Sales people typically sharpen their speaking skills over time, eventually finding a style that is effective and natural that exudes the confidence it takes to speak in front of key decision makers.
Time and practice are your best friends for eventually perfecting a presentation, and here are a number of tips that can help boost your confidence.
Practice Alone and in Front of Others
Practicing your presentation will help you feel more comfortable and confident with what you plan to say. Practice by yourself in front of a mirror or while performing your daily tasks. Practice in front of friends, family members, colleagues – anyone willing to listen.
Try rehearsing at a location similar to where you’ll be giving your final presentation. Visualize your audience as you’re delivering your key points. For a particularly important presentation, you can even record yourself and listen for areas that need a little work.
While you want to practice multiple times, you don’t want to indulge in so much practice that your presentation sounds robotic, stale, or scripted. Practice to the point where you don’t need to solely rely on your note cards, but the presentation still has an element of freshness and excitement.
Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication
Even if your verbal skills are amazing, your entire presentation can be marred if your non-verbal presence is distracting. Pay attention to your gestures, posture, facial expressions, and other body language that can either strengthen or detract from your presentation.
- Hands: Avoid distracting hand motions, such as fidgeting, tapping, knuckle-popping, and moving them in and out of your pockets. Give them something to do, like holding a slide clicker or pointing at presentation data or information.
- Elbows: Keeping them pinned to your sides appears unnatural. Instead, make sure there is adequate room between your elbows and body so your arms can move freely.
- Stance: Stand straight and tall, with your head held high, moving around as needed. Staying glued in one place can appear unnatural and create a barrier between you and the audience. Pick various areas where you’ll move to point out information, engage your audience, or emphasize a point.
- Facial expressions: Smiling can release endorphins that calm you down and boost confidence. But you don’t want to overdo it by smiling just because you’re nervous or when you’re trying to make a serious point. Again, try to allow your facial expressions to be natural and aligned with what you’re saying.
- Eye contact: Making eye contact with stakeholders who are particularly engaged can make you feel more at ease. Avoid staring only at your notes, darting your eyes around the room, or staring off above people's heads.
Dress the Part
Your outfit should mesh with the type of presentation you’re giving and to whom you're presenting. If you’re talking to business executives, wear a suit. Like it or not, people judge others by what they’re wearing, and your outfit will give your audience an immediate impression of the kind of person you are and what you have to offer. It's best to err on the side of being overdressed, but context is everything – if you're meeting with a tech company that has a casual dress code, wearing a suit might make you seem overly formal and impersonal.
Being well-groomed is a must, as is wearing something flattering that makes you feel comfortable. If your clothes are too tight, too loose, or too warm, you may nervously adjust your outfit or sweat as you present. You may even want to practice your presentation wearing your chosen outfit to make sure it holds up to the challenge.
Arriving early gives you numerous advantages, such as giving you time to:
- Calm your nerves
- Not stress about traffic while you're enroute
- Acclimate to the room environment
- Ensure you understand any technology you’ll be using
- Meet and greet audience members as they arrive
Take Deep Breaths
It's a natural human response to get nervous and tense when faced with any activity that’s out of your comfort zone. Before and during an important sales call, you may become so tense that your breathing becomes shallow.
Deep breathing lets oxygen flow into the brain while relaxing the body. Take a few deep breaths right before the presentation to center your focus, calm yourself, and release stress.
Drink Plenty of Water
Anxiety often brings on dry mouth, which you can prevent by drinking plenty of water before your presentation. Bring a bottle of water with you that you can easily reach when needed. Sipping water during pauses in your presentation can help your voice stay strong and stable and can give your audience a break to process your statements and respond with questions.
Use Your Nervous Energy to Your Advantage
One of the major keys to an effective presentation is not getting rid of your nerves, but using them to your advantage. Visualize and transform nervous fear into excitement, using the adrenaline rush to power your presentation with enthusiasm and energy. Remember, too, that most people can’t tell when others aren’t feeling totally confident, so try your best to exude it no matter what.
If you happen to make a mistake during your presentation, move forward without announcing it or otherwise calling attention to it. It’s highly likely your audience won’t even notice a mistake was made.
Laughter can also be a great way to diffuse nervous energy. If and when it makes sense, try telling a joke or two before or during your presentation.
Own Your Strengths; Be Aware of Your Blind Spots
As you lead a sales presentation, it's important to connect meaningfully with your audience. The best way to connect is to be aware of your own personality traits and natural selling style. Using a personality assessment for yourself can be helpful for understanding your natural communication style, potential blind spots, and stress behavior – all of which are critical to have in mind as you have sales conversations.
Knowing your personality strengths – where you feel most comfortable and energized – is important as you craft your presentation. If you're gregarious and not numbers-oriented, don't overwhelm your presentation with data but focus more on customer stories. If you're more analytical, do the opposite and tell the benefits through numbers. You can persuade an audience in many ways – do it in the way that you feel most confident and comfortable.
That said, be aware of your blind spots if your audience doesn't seem to react positively to your natural presentation style. Ask questions to figure out what they care about and be prepared to pivot your presentation as needed. Also knowing your stress reactions is important – do you withdraw from the conversation and become quiet? Do you get defensive? Do you rush through the content hastily? Being self-aware of your stress behavior will allow you to self-monitor while under pressure.
While time and practice greatly contribute to a persuasive sales presentation, so does appearing and feeling confident, comfortable, and in control. The key goal in sales is to understand your client's objectives, connect meaningfully with your client, and provide value – building trust on behalf of your product or service. Through preparation, practice, and self-awareness, you'll be able to have more productive sales calls and have your message resonate deeply and meaningfully.