For many, public speaking is the stuff of frightful nightmares. Even seasoned speakers can develop jitters before taking the stage. Anxiety can rise whether the audience is a handful of colleagues in the conference room or a full auditorium. Yet, at some point in our careers, we’re all called upon to make a presentation: to our department, to our executives, to a group of investors, or to conference attendees. These 8 tips can help you tame your nerves and knock it out of the park.
Prepare and practice:
It’s easier to pontificate on topics we’re well informed about. Give yourself time to draft your presentation and then practice it. The better handle you have on the message, the easier delivering it will be.
But don’t over prepare:
You want to avoid the panic that rises from the pit of your stomach the moment you realize you forgot your next line. As you prepare and practice, focus on mastering key points. Don’t worry, however, about memorizing your presentation line for line. Know your stuff well enough to be flexible during your presentation.
While you don’t want to stand before a crowd and read from a prepared script, you should have notes with you when you speak. The right format for those notes depends on your personal style. Whether it’s an outline or long-form draft, be sure to note (and highlight) specific data points, quotes, and other key information you need to hit spot on.
Get comfortable in your space:
Prior to your presentation, get familiar with the physical space and any equipment you’ll be using. Walking up to the front of the room for the first time, wondering if the laptop is going to connect to the screen, can trigger those abdominal backflips we’re trying to avoid.
You’ve got cheerleaders:
The people you’re about to speak to really do want you to succeed. Go into the room with confidence that they are on your side.
Conversations are less stressful than presentations. When appropriate, incorporate opportunities for your audience to participate. If a true back-and-forth dialogue isn’t conducive to the setting, engage the audience through a show of hands or similar response.
Burn off steam:
Convert nerves to energy. Go for a run in the morning. Practice some deep breathing exercises. Stretch. Get a few jumping jacks in. Pick what form of movement works best for you.
There is a practical reason for keeping a glass or bottle of water in reach while you speak: you’re going to get thirsty. There’s another reason too. If your nerves are getting the best of you, if you’re losing track of your thoughts, if you feel like your pacing is off: take a drink. That water glass is an easy pause button. Take a sip while the audience digests what you just said and then pick up the conversation.