Career advice

Prepare to succeed

Nurses are increasingly required to give presentations, whether in front of their class, to the media or at conferences.

Nurses are increasingly required to give presentations, whether in front of their class, to the media or at conferences. Feeling nervous in such situations is common.

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The butterflies in your stomach signal your doubts about your ability to communicate ideas to an audience successfully. However, with a bit of prep work, presentations can become much less stressful and a lot more successful. Here’s how:

Whether you are doing a presentation for a live audience or a lone examiner, the number one key to success is to know your target audience. Understanding your audience can help you tailor appropriate content that will capture their interest and keep them engaged. Select a main message that you wish to impart and make sure you communicate it by the end of your presentation. Use simple language and images to make the message easily assimilated and memorable. Keep it short – do not exceed your allotted time.

Talk to others who have done similar presentations to get a feel for the event and/or the audience. If you are able, take it one step further and visit the location to familiarise yourself with the environment and the technology available for you to use, so that you will be less anxious on the day.

Another way to reduce stress on presentation day is to know your material inside out. Research your subject well – especially if there are controversial aspects to it – so you are not caught unaware by questions. Practise in your head, in front of a mirror, practise alone, practise with an audience – the more you practise, the easier presentation day will be.

Physical exercise, whether simple breathing exercises or yoga, can help calm nerves and increase focus. Engage in mental exercise as well: channel positive thoughts about your presentation and visualising success.

Body language and your physical presentation will have a huge impact on your success. Wear comfortable clothes, eat well at least 30 minutes before the presentation, and keep yourself hydrated. Wearing comfortable clothes and shoes means you have one less thing to worry about. Speak slowly and clearly. If possible and appropriate, insert some comic relief into your presentation to break the ice. Project confidence in yourself and your subject by standing upright and smiling. Use your arms to your advantage by gesturing with your hands. How you present your content is as important as the content itself.

Don’t forget to interact with your audience, including making brief eye contact. Audience interaction also gives you feedback on the topics that will be the focal points for discussion at the end of your presentation. Think ahead about which questions might be asked and come prepared.

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