Public speaking and presentations: Face up to your fears!
Do your knees knock when you stand up to speak? Does your mouth go dry as you’re about to open it? Does your mind go blank at the sight of an audience? You are not the only one!
It is a common experience to feel anxious about speaking and presenting, whether to a small meeting of colleagues you know or to a sea of unfamiliar faces. Here’s the good news… There are many things you can do to reduce and manage your nerves, both before and during your speech or presentation.
Here are ten tips to get you started:
1. View some advance anxiety as helpful, the motivator that makes you prepare and practise. Remember: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” (Benjamin Franklin).
2. Prepare well in advance, the longer you leave it, the more anxious you’ll become and you leave no time for the unexpected, such as feeling unwell or unplanned demands from your boss.
3. First decide on your objectives. What do you want your listeners to think or do as a result of what you say? This determines the content of your speech or contribution at a meeting.
4. Structure your presentation. Just like a story, it needs a beginning, middle and an end. This will help your listeners to follow your plot. Without a plot, you can lose the thread too!
5. Leave enough time to practise and refine if needed. Stand in front of the mirror and be your own audience!
6. Practise and become really comfortable with your opening lines. If you begin confidently and fluently, the rest is more likely to flow and the audience feels confident too.
7. Arrive early: get to know the place and the people before you speak. Introduce yourself to individuals and start building relationships before you start speaking.
8. Concentrate on the audience, not on yourself or your nerves. Use eye contact and be responsive to their body language. Watch for clues. Can they follow and hear you?
9. Close on an upbeat note. Summarise your key objective and call on your listeners to act! Having delivered a great speech, don’t undermine it with a minimising “That’s all I have to say for now!”.
10.Thought for the day. However you feel inside, no matter how many butterflies are flapping their wings in your tummy, do your best to appear to enjoy presenting and your audience will enjoy it too!