When I train groups or coach individuals in presentation skills, I encourage them to drown out the negative voices in their heads with a positive mantra and visualize themselves successfully giving an effective presentation.

The power of visualization has long been used by top athletes to achieve high performance and it also applies to giving presentations. I recently read a concise description of visualization in The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald, a sports psychology consultant and former world-ranked tennis player.

In chapter 12, "Visualize After Errors and Before Matches," Greenwald recommends the following process for successful visualization [I am paraphrasing loosely]:

• Find a quiet place
• Relax your mind
• Take deep breaths for about 5 minutes and focus on your breathing
• Imagine yourself succeeding – exaggerate the image and allow yourself to experience what success feels like, looks like and sounds like
• Use a quick snapshot of this image to focus yourself before you play [or in your case, present] and also to refocus yourself after you've made an error

You can apply the same steps to visualizing your presentation success. Imagine what it feels like to hear your name spoken by the person introducing you at the event or welcoming you to the meeting. Then feel yourself walking confidently to the front of the room or smiling as everyone seated at the table turns toward you. Experience the sensation of delivering your content with ease, overcoming any fear or anxiety.

If you stumble over a word, forget what you were going to say next or go blank when someone asks you a question, call up the images of you eloquently describing your topic, easily remembering what comes next and confidently responding to a question. These positive images will help you make a quick mid-course correction and prevent a small mistake from snowballing into a presentation disaster.

The next time you have to give a presentation, try these visualization steps. Along with your other preparation and practice, visualization can help you deliver an Olympic-worthy presentation.

Author's Bio: 

Gilda Bonanno is a trainer, speaker, coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurs, small business owners and corporate professionals sharpen their presentation and communication skills. She achieves these results by combining her extensive business experience with a talent for improvisational performance and a belief that with the right training and practice, everyone can become an effective communicator.
In addition to facilitating high-energy, client-focused training programs, Gilda speaks about leadership, motivation, communication and humor to groups ranging from engineers to healthcare professionals to human resource practitioners. Gilda also coaches individuals to overcome their fear of public speaking and eliminate the barriers to letting their voice be heard.
She is Immediate Past President of the Southern CT chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and a member of the National Speakers Association. Gilda also is a member of the World Class Indifference improv comedy team, which performs shows and workshops in New York City and throughout Connecticut. She incorporates improv techniques into her training and coaching, helping people learn to think on their feet, be creative and develop confidence.
Gilda is based in Fairfield County, CT and has worked with clients throughout the US, and in Mexico, China and India.
(C) Gilda Bonanno 2009