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Career advice for mums: from career coach Julie Smith

In 10 days time, I’ve got to stand up in front of a room of 25 people to do a presentation, and I’m so nervous. Any tips for me on how to sound confident (even if I don’t feel it)?

Okay, here are my top ten tips:

1) Someone has asked you to deliver this presentation because they know you have something useful to say. Keep reminding yourself of this and if necessary, write it down somewhere you’ll keep seeing it. That way the positive message will help to crowd out negative voices in your head (A.K.A your inner critic).

2) Switch your thoughts from how you are feeling, to how you want the audience to feel. Think to yourself ‘how can I be of service to this audience?’ By focusing on what your audience needs, not only will you smash it in your presentation, you won’t be worried about how you feel, because you’ll be so focused on their needs.

3) Rehearse. If you’re like me, you feel really daft talking to a mirror to rehearse a presentation, but it really does help and thinking it’s okay to just wing it, is disrespectful to your audience. (If you are really pushed for time, at least make sure you rehearse the first few sentences of your presentation, as that is when most people feel nerves).

4) Think through the what-ifs. When preparing and rehearsing, think through all the what-ifs. What if the laptop doesn’t work? What if I start coughing? Then, work out what you would do in those situations. That way, whatever happens, you’ve got a plan.

5) Think of the stinkiest question. Let’s face it, we’ve all been in presentations where someone has asked a tricky question. Prepare for this by thinking of the stinkiest questions, ones that you’d hate to be asked. Then plan how you would answer them (you can ask colleagues/friends to help you with this).

You are unlikely to be asked so many stinkers but should ‘Paul from supply chain’ try and knock you off course with a curveball, (because you got a recent promotion and he didn’t!), you’ll be able to answer with poise and politeness.

6) A bit of fear is actually your friend. When I rehearse a presentation, it never has the same energy as when I actually deliver it. This is because there’s no fear when I’m sitting and talking to myself in my office. Yet, when I’m in front of fellow human beings, that bit of fear means adrenalin kicks in, making my presentations so much better than the run-throughs.

7) Learn some mindfulness strategies. (You’ll find lots just by Googling). They include simple calming techniques such as breathing and pausing to really feel how grounded your feet are on the floor. Sound a bit strange? Trust me, it really works.

8) Adopt a power pose. Watch Amy Cuddy’s TEDtalk below about body language and power poses. I’m not suggesting that you adopt them in front of a boardroom full of your colleagues, instead why not try the ‘Wonder Woman pose’ in the loos beforehand? It opens up your breathing and makes you feel stronger. If nothing else, it will probably give you a giggle, which is a great way to give fear the boot.