Being nervous about giving a presentation to a large group of people is natural, but there are ways to overcome your anxiety, or even draw from it, to make sure your presentation and public speaking is impressive and engaging.
Sweaty palms, a faltering voice, or worse, drawing a complete blank – I’d like to think we’ve all been victim to the some of the symptoms of nervousness brought on by giving a presentation to a group of colleagues, peers or the public. But then again, we’ve all seen those lucky people who can waltz onto the stage, enthral their listeners, maybe even crack a joke to rapturous laughter, and walk off to endless applause… or maybe I’m just dreaming of that for myself.
Here are our top ten tips for nervous public speakers:
Recognise your nervous energy and use it to fuel an enthusiastic, focused presentation.
Acknowledging that you are nervous about speaking in public is one of the best ways you can move forward, towards giving a great presentation. Utilise calming techniques and think about transforming that nervous energy you have – maybe those butterflies in your stomach – into something more useful, such as an energetic presentation full of smiles and confidence.
“Imagine the audience naked”.
We’ve all heard this one before and even though I don’t recommend literally ogling at audience members, there is something in this age old tip. Redefine your audience. It doesn’t matter who your audience is, if you can change your own perception of them, to something a little less intimidating, then you should be able to calm your nerves. They are there to listen to what you have to say for a reason, probably to try and learn something from you, so they shouldn’t be as scary as a nervous mind may imagine them to be.
Have a strong, visually impressive, professional presentation.
If you are a nervous public speaker then one of the most powerful tools you have on your side is an impressive, beautiful, professional presentation. An online presentation tool such as Presbee allows you to create an aesthetically stunning presentation quickly and easily. The benefits of this are ten-fold. Your audience’s eyes will be drawn away from you and onto the presentation on their screens. A professional presentation will automatically improve the audience’s perception of you, and then you can relax a little and concentrate on your speaking. Similarly, if you falter in your speech or lose your train of thought, or draw the dreaded blank, you can turn to your presentation and draw off that.
Pre-record some of the audio for your presentation.
Furthermore, if you are using Presbee then you can incorporate some pre-recorded audio into your presentation, giving you a breather and ensuring your most important points aren’t misheard or jumbled.
Practice, practice, practice.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to calm your anxiety about public speaking is simply to practice. You could practice in front of the mirror, so you can get used to the sound of your own projected voice. Take note of your posture, your body language, including hand gestures and your expressions, and try to critique your performance so that you can then improve. Then try to recruit a friend or colleague to practice on – this should ease your nerves a little more and they can give you some constructive criticism and confidence boosting compliments.
Present yourself well.
If you feel confident in yourself, then that should be reflected in your audience’s perception of you. Look and dress sharp. Don’t wear anything too distracting and make sure you are comfortable and can move about. You want the audience to be focused on what you are saying not your colour-clashing attire. And smile! A smile has the double effect of engaging your audience and calming yourself.
Focus on the material, not the audience
Ultimately, your presentation is the most important thing, that’s what you’re there for. So there is no need to be focused on the audience and their facial expressions or reactions. Don’t worry yourself over what you can’t control, and focus on what you can, such as speaking clearly and loudly, and getting your personality and your passion across.
Don’t talk too fast, focus on your breathing.
When it comes to public speaking, try to speak a little slower than you would normally in conversation. Focus on your breathing, so you don’t end up with hiccup type breathes at the end of your sentences. If you are tempted to keep your eyes on the floor or on your notes, make a conscious effort to keep your eyes on one person in the audience in the centre, and to the left and to the right. You don’t have to have a staring contest with them – that can feel forced or unnatural. Instead look at the spot directly above their forehead. And, of course, switch your attention to anyone asking a question.
Just keep going.
Just keep going with your presentation, even if you trip up. The chances are if you carry on the audience won’t register it and you can carry on confidently and continue to impress. As with any performance, the show must go on, and you will do yourself and your audience a favour if you just stroll right past any mistakes or jumbled words and continue. It happens to even the most professional and experienced public speakers!
Learn from your presentation, evaluate what you did well and what was difficult and use that to move forward in the future.
Even if your presentation left you feeling a little dizzy after you’ve stepped out of the limelight, take it as a success and learn from any mistakes for the future. Did your preparation pay off, or do you need to try a different approach? If you can learn from what went well, and what maybe didn’t go so well, then you’ll be on your way to becoming a great public speaker and you can overcome your nerves.
Are you a nervous public speaker? How have you learnt to overcome your anxiety surrounding public speaking?