Even seasoned speakers experience some amount of anxiety when it is time to step up to speak. Most people, however, will find themselves required to speak publicly in many different settings. Whether it’s for work, or an occasion with family and friends, here are seven presentation tips that will help you to be a confident speaker in spite of your fear.
1) Be gentle with yourself. As you step up to speak, does your heartbeat race, your breath become shallow, your muscles tense up? While we all would prefer this not to happen, the truth is, public speaking activates your adrenal glands and creates nervous energy. Take a step back and reassure yourself that what you are experiencing is normal. Harness that energy and make it work FOR you, NOT against you. Make a conscious decision to use purposeful movements, meaningful gestures, and direct and continuous eye contact.
2) Go for intention not precision. Having invested the time and energy to clarify and organize your message, it can be tempting to want to be precise in what you say. You may want to use the exact words or phrases you agonized over while crafting your message. That level of precision creates a lot of pressure and in fact may limit your ability to connect with your audience. Rather than memorizing each and every word of your presentation, ask yourself:
What is my message?
What do I want my audience to come away with?
Use the key points as landmarks throughout your presentation. Know and trust your message to fill in the gaps.
3) Practice out loud. Until you’ve rehearsed out loud, you can’t truly tell what works and what doesn’t, what trips you up, what’s too complicated, or what just doesn’t sound like you. A presentation that’s “well done” on paper is probably about 70% done in reality. On average, a presenter benefits from rehearsing the presentation out loud 4 to 5 times to seal the deal — especially when it comes to critical or career-defining presentations.
4) Develop a ritual. What can you do to be mentally prepared before you step on stage? Similar to many professional athletes, develop a “pre-game” ritual to get yourself “primed”. My ritual includes greeting people as they arrive, taking a few minutes for myself just prior to the start of the presentation, and listening intently to the introduction so I am ready to walk briskly and enthusiastically to the stage.
5) Meet & greet your audience. Take the time before your presentation to circulate and get to know your audience. Ask individuals about their interest in your topic and expectations of your presentation. Informal pre-event conversations can provide spontaneous anecdotes you can use to personalize your presentation and keep everyone engaged.
6) Speak to one person at a time. Try speaking to one person at a time rather than to the group as a whole. This practice will help you form a personal connection with members of the audience and eliminate the stress of speaking to a large group of people all at once.
7) Smile. A smile is a great way to release anxiety. Before saying a word, look out and smile to greet your audience – this simple gesture will put you and your audience at ease.
Public speaking is a fear that can be managed. Remember that your presentation is for your audience! Remaining confident as you share your message will help you combat the anxiety that accompanies public speaking, and you may find you enjoy yourself in the process!