I have been teaching Presentation Skills professionally for over 15 years. My courses are about developing and attaining your natural style in front of people. Being yourself. You are quite interesting!
The other courses out there and the organizations like Toastmasters have a different approach. I believe wholeheartedly that if we can learn the techniques that allow us to be ourselves and natural in front of people, and not by learning an “act” or “schtick” or “gimmick”, we will be far more believable, confident and successful. And effective!
When people were surveyed about their greatest fears, there was one that surpassed death, spiders, snakes and losing a job. The dreaded fear was speaking in public or ‘glossophobia‘.
So, guess what? You’re not alone at being nervous. I will let you in on a little secret, it is considered a normal reaction we humans have. This is especially true when someone asks that you speak to a group of people, and even more so when you do not know any of them. We all have that tendency to become nervous. I do not care who you are, some are just more nervous than others.
We all have developed various degrees of “stage fright,” at some point even the most experienced speakers. Nevertheless, once you recognize that being a little “nervous” when asked to speak is a normal reaction then you can also learn to use that nervousness to your advantage. Learning to turn that nervous energy inward to focus yourself on presenting a powerful dynamic presentation, once you learn how, you will never be the same person again. When asked to speak or give a presentation before a group of people, your presentation skills will flow naturally and comfortably.
You may find this helpful in controlling your nervousness before a presentation.
The first step in controlling your nervousness is simple, you must know and understand your subject material. Know it cold! When lack of confidence is present in your presentation, trust me, it really shows. Keeping your confidence level “in yourself” is another big step in controlling your nervousness.
How can you do that?
Very simple, one word … “practice.” Practice your presentation as much as possible. As you rehearse your speech or presentation, a funny thing happens, you become less nervous as your confidence level increases. If you remember that being nervous is a normal reaction, and you can control it, do not let it control you.
I also find that using these methods helpful.
- Visualize the whole presentation in your mind.
- Go through each step of the presentation in your mind much like reading a script.
- Make sure everything that you will use during the presentation is ready and organized.
- Less stress = better presentations.
The number one protection against nervousness is knowing your subject cold. Be over-prepared and you’ll automatically feel better about your presentation.
Talk to one person at a time. Literally, look directly into the eyes of one listener at a time, just as you normally do in one-on-one conversation. This will be difficult at first if you’re used to scanning or avoiding eye contact, but it’s worth the effort to acquire this basic habit of effective speech.
Stand up straight. Correct posture will make it easier for you to breathe properly, which will in turn make it easier to get your words out naturally.
Know exactly what your opening line is going to be. Knowing your opening statement will reduce worry about getting started, the most bothersome time for most speakers.
Just before you get up to speak, say to yourself: “I know what I’m going to say and I’m glad for this chance to say it.
So what do I do?
1. I try and really know my material. Any hesitation is misconstrued as fright.
2. I try and prepare. Write down the key phrases.
3. Be prepared. Get enough sleep and be alert.
Practice, practice, practice.
(I will add some Pro Tips after each installment)
Speak up. Talk a little louder than you think you have to. Most people speak far too softly and the result is often mumbling. (Speaking up also helps you feel less nervous).
George Jessel said this about speeches: “If you haven’t struck oil in three minutes, stop boring!” I would modify that slightly: you have less than a minute to convince business audiences that you’ve got something interesting to say. Moral: find an interesting opening story or compelling first sentence.
The oldest advice to speakers is probably this. “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Tell ’em what you told ’em.” Always summarize your central theme and repeat your key points. (By the way, the audience will never remember more than three key points. More on this later!)
With audiences of 30 or more people, it’s a good idea to repeat each question so the entire audience knows exactly what question you’re answering. This also gives you valuable thinking time. You don’t have to repeat each question verbatim; just make sure you restate the essential elements.
Look directly at the person asking you a question and make sure they’re finished before you start your answer. During your answer, don’t look just at the questioner, but talk to the rest of the audience. If you direct your attention only to the questioner, you’ll lose the others’ attention.