Does the thought of standing and speaking in front of a group of people create butterflies in your stomach? Do your hands get sweaty? Do your legs feel stiff or wobbly? You’re not alone – and it’s a natural reaction.
There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.
– Mark Twain
However, this fear should not stop you from doing it all together. Being a good public speaker is an essential skill that can help you advance your career, grow your business, and form strong relationships. Instead of trying to stop the fear you can learn to control it.
Here are 8 really useful tips which will help you control the fear through preparation, practice and performance.
- Know your subject. You were invited to speak as you know something about or have an opinion on the topic. You therefore know what you are talking about and are considered a content expert. Be proud of being there and of having the opportunity to share your message. Prepare your content carefully. The better you know it, the less there is to be scared about.
- Understand the context. Once you understand how you fit into the entire event you will feel more part of the big picture. How many people are expected? What’s the venue like? Who else is speaking? Taking some of the unknown elements out of the event will make you feel less nervous. Try to imagine yourself on that particular stage in front of that particular audience.
- Understand the audience. Who will you be speaking to? What have they heard before? What are their expectations? How do you want to make them feel or think after your presentation? Focusing on the audience and what you are bringing to them shines the light away from you and helps you to reorient yourself to meeting their needs, rather than on thinking about your performance and nerves. Your presentation is not about you, it’s about them.
- The better you know the presentation, the easier you will be able to improve or adjust at the last minute, if necessary. Most people are not able to memorise a 20-minute speech, word for word, so breakdown your presentation into key statements and practice speaking to them. You need to practice many times to ensure the presentation is as fluent as possible. Memorise the opening and closing statements – this will give you a grounding and you will be boosted by the confidence that this gives you.
- Practice in an environment as close to the real situation as possible. Stand up and speak out loud like you will on the day. Use the space (stage) or stand behind a make-believe podium like you will during the actual presentation. If you are going to use slides practice using a clicker and when to move to the next slide. If you have the opportunity to practice in the actual room where you will be presenting then that is ideal. As you practice imagine yourself already in front of the audience. This visualization will help calm you and enable you to see yourself delivering that polished presentation to a grateful audience.
- On the day make sure that you are well-rested, and in peak physical and mental condition. Eat something light and nutritious. Do some light exercise on the morning of the presentation to get the oxygen flowing throughout your body. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and drink lots of water throughout the day.
7. Before your presentation find a quiet place so that you can focus and get mentally and physically ready. During this quiet time, do the following:
- Take a minute to breathe deeply. This will bring oxygen to your brain and will relax your body.
- Listen to some positive uplifting or calming music to help you feel positive and composed.
- Loosen up your body – shake out and roll your shoulders, neck and jaw to release tension.
- Pose like a superwoman or man. Amy Cuddy, Harvard professor and body language expert found that our emotions respond to the physical state of our bodies. If we use positive and relaxed poses, we will feel more positive and relaxed.
- If you have wobbly legs or shaky hands clench and then release your thigh and buttock muscles to let go of that nervous energy.
- Conjure up a time when you felt great – successful, powerful and in control. Fill yourself with the warm, safe glow that this provides. Visualize a positive outcome in your conscious mind and your sub-conscious mind will follow.
- When it’s your turn, stand up, walk confidently and stand proudly in front of the audience. Take a moment to compose yourself, look out at the audience and smile. Smiling will relax you as well as make you appear more likable, confident and approachable.
These tips can be used to control your fears for conference presentations, job interviews, difficult conversations and presenting in front of your team or staff. Having prepared, practiced and performed to the best of your abilities you will find that next time you need to present you will feel less scared. Remember – it is normal to be a bit scared. Don’t let that stop you – you can control the fear and speak confidently!
Learn to control the fear and transform the adrenaline into positive energy which brings your presentation alive.