Have you ever had to give a public talk or presentation? Maybe it was a formal occasion as part of your work, or it may have be been informal, like a toast for your best friend’s wedding. Either way, speaking in public can often reduce us to a pile of nerves.
We generally associate being nervous with novices. But did you know that even successful professional speakers still get nervous? They have just learned to manage their nerves.
It’s natural to feel nervous – it’s been ingrained in us from thousands of years of evolution where human beings needed to be accepted by their social groups in order to survive. If you were not accepted, often for being different in some way, you were cast out and left to defend for yourself. Inevitably that meant death.
So it’s no wonder that we get nervous when we have to stand in front of a roomful of people, and do something that many of us feel vulnerable doing – speak!
So here are 9 tips for you to help alleviate the public speaking jitters:
- Remember first and foremost that the audience wants you to be great, not terrible. They want you to succeed. You are doing something most of them would rather not do, and for that alone you will have their respect. So remind yourself that they are rooting for you!
- Be mindful of negative self-talk. This actually ties into the first tip. We are often our own worst enemy, and talk down to ourselves without even being consciously aware of how much we do that. With awareness comes liberation!
- Be prepared. Practice with friends or colleagues before you give a talk for the first time. Especially practice your timing. The biggest mistake clients make when they come to me for presentation coaching is that they have way too much material for the time allotted. Added to which, we do tend to take more time in front of a live audience than when we are practicing by ourselves at home. So do be mindful of your timing. You also want to practice if you are using any technology. If part of your talk involves a slide presentation, showing a video, playing music etc, make sure you know in advance how everything works.
- Utilize the power of visualization to your advantage. We tend to worry about all the bad things that might happen (like forgetting what we want to say, looking stupid, having technology problems etc). It’s easy to get stuck focusing on what we don’t want, but remember, whatever you focus on you get more of. So see yourself in your mind’s eye giving a stellar presentation and getting a standing ovation! Don’t underestimate how powerful that can be.
- On the day of your presentation get to the room early. Make sure it is set up the way that you want. Become familiar with the space. Do a final check to make sure your microphone and all your audio and visual equipment works.
- Meet and greet folks as they come in. This is so important when it comes to reducing the jitters. First, it takes your mind off being nervous. Second, once you have made a connection with attendees you will be speaking to a roomful of folks that you have some familiarity with (at least a bit) rather than a room filled with complete strangers. That helps a lot.
- Know the opening of your talk cold. You are most nervous and the audience is most skeptical at the beginning of your talk. You will be more confident if you know what your very first words will be, and you don’t have to think about them.
- When it comes time for your presentation, walk confidently to the center of the room or stage (or to the lectern or podium if you are using one). Before you open your mouth stand with your feet firmly planted, scan the room (look for friendly faces) and breathe. Then look at the friendliest face and direct your opening words to them.
- Never speak as if you were speaking to a group of people. Always speak to one person, then another, then another. This creates a sense of connection and intimacy.
So there are 9 tips to consider the next time you have to give a talk. Here is one more – don’t forget to smile… and have fun!