In addition to having done good performance work, created a perfect set of slides, and a well written report, there is a mental game to be played as well. You need faith in your results and you need to present them smoothly, or many hours of hard work will be lost.
Build Your Faith In Your Results
I hate to tell you this but, your results and conclusions may not, be correct. Mistakes happen. Things are missed. Calculations are botched. Data can be corrupted. You are usually keenly aware of all of these things just before you have to present your results. Worry creeps into your mind like a cold fog, and you can find yourself unsure you know anything at all.
There is only one way to prevent this. Start by accepting the fact that you are a regular, carbon-based life form fully capable of screwing up, and then do the hard work necessary to build a rock-solid faith in your results and conclusions. If you don’t deeply trust in the results, then that lack of trust will show on your face, and whatever you say won’t matter. Much of what we communicate is non-verbal. If they don’t believe you, your results are worthless. This is especially true high up the org chart as they don’t have time to comb through all your data.
Check everything. Check it twice. Look for inconsistencies. If you use a tool to boil down your performance data, recheck by hand a few values to be sure the tool is working. Present your results to a trusted co-worker to debug your analysis. Have someone else look for typos, misspelled words, and grammar glitches. Ninety-nine percent of this work will find nothing amiss, but the work is not wasted. You now have a rock-solid faith in your results, and your presentation has a few less booboos for your adversaries to use against you.
It is a natural human reaction to avoid difficult things, and that is why most people never practice their presentations before they give them. This is unfortunate and leads to many overlong, boring, confusing, and generally bad presentations.
You need to practice. Really.
When you practice, say the words out loud, don’t just think them. You use a different part of your brain when you speak, and that gives you another chance to notice problems in your logic and in your material. Do you doubt me? Have you ever had some thought that sounded reasonable inside your head but sounded monstrously stupid once you said it out loud? I rest my case. You need to practice. It may feel silly to stand up in an empty room and present to no one, but you need to do this. I’ve been presenting for over 30 years, and I still do this with new material. It helps me every time.
One key thing to practice is getting any presentation equipment you need set up. I can tell you from painful experience that this is important. I remember the flop-sweat trickling down my forehead as a room full of people watched me struggle with a projector. That very, very bad day taught me to always get to the meeting room early and figure out those little things that can make you look like a big idiot.