In business, your next presentation could change your life. Delivering a successful presentation could mean landing a major new contract, better prices for your services or getting the funding you need. Failure can mean lost customers and a business that never gets off the ground.

With so much at stake, it's important to stay calm and perform your best. Practice and keep in mind these several positive habits to ensure that you deliver an effective business presentation.

1. Identify Anxiety

Public speaking has been reported as one of the greatest fears among people. But speaking publicy probablly isn't what's making you afraid. Normally it's something else: fear of criticism, rejection, embarrassment, or the unknown. Maybe you even have post-traumatic stress from a past speech gone wrong.

All of these issues generally center around one idea: I'm afraid of failing at this presentation and being embarrassed as a result. Once you see what you're truly afraid of, and that you'll survive even if you mess up, the fear will subside.

Focus on how you need to be in order to execute an outstanding presentation. Start by being confident.

2. Keep it Short

Believe in your ability to tell an effective story with a powerful, knock-out punch line. Too many presentations are simply too long. Your audience will appreciate brevity.

The most memorable presentations are the ones that hit an emotional chord with a tight story and a punch line. No fluff. Keep it creative and concise. Remember: greatness exists in quality, not quantity. And as Winston Chruchill once said: "If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter." Think about that one.

3. Listen Closely if Criticized

Nobody wants to be heckled. As you prepare your speech, it can be easy to imagine someone interrupting you, shouting out what your mind is already telling itself: He lacks experience. He didn't prepare enough. How did he get this job?

It's important not to disqualify criticism or get defensive. Instead, listen, reflect, and evaluate the comment, then try to move the conversation in the right direction. This will show your audience that you are thoughtful and credible as well as enable you to maintain control over the direction and impact of the presentation.

Ask some clarifying questions. Listen to the answers. The conversation will get specific enough to address. If so, answer, and then move your speech back on track. If not, remember that you can't please everybody, the moment you focus on that, you'll no longer have a business that stands out.

4. Embrace the Unknown

Prepare for excellence, but acknowledge that even if you practice, surprises can happen. You may have to stand in last-minute for a colleague with no time to get ready. Anything is possible.

The good news is that your audience wants you to finish the speech. Some came to your event just to hear your presentation.

Instead of fearing the unknown, including all the bad that can happen, realize that good things can surprise you as well. Talk to your audience. Opportunities can arise when you listen to their concerns that can lead the presentation toward a better outcome than you planned.

Experienced speakers prepare beforehand, but they also grasp opportunity when it appears.

5. Get Started Already

Don't overthink your presentation: when you're ready, jump in - the water will be just fine. The more time you spend getting ready, the more you mentally build the task into something larger than it actually is. With practice you'll become adept at quickly facing and overcoming challenges that arise and this quick-wittedness will further please your audience and position you as an expert.

Related Reading: 7 Strategies to Become a Better Public Speaker

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