If you are a nervous presenter the one thing you can be certain of is that you are not alone.
Public speaking anxiety seems to me to be a little like the ‘tax man’. It doesn’t matter who you are ,where you come from or what you do, he will come knocking at your door at some point.
For some of us the knock is all too loud and frequent
Others may get away with just a little tapping every now and then.
There have been countless books and articles written to provide strategies and techniques to help the nervous presenter. Many of them offer good advice.
For the sufferer though, it’s a big issue.
Tellling them to just practice and breathe may be good advice but for most it isn’t enough.
There isn’t a ‘magic cure’ for the angst a nervous presenter feels
If there were ,the psychologists and communication specialists who have been researching the issue for decades would have found it by now.
I once heard someone say: ‘We all get butterflies in our stomach when we are presenting and that’s fine, the trick is to get them flying in formation.’
There is a great deal you can do to get those butterflies to fly in formation and get the ‘taxman’ knocking more softly on your door.
It does however takes time, commitment and practice. If you are a nervous presenter explore these 10 helpful tips:
Tip 1 – Improvise
Before you book yourself onto a public speaking course join a improvisation class.
In a safe, fun and free thinking environment a good teacher will take you through lots of exercises.
Each activity is carefully designed to empower you to be yourself in front of others and speak calmly under pressure.
A good improvisation class will help a nervous presenter
– Be in the moment, rather than pre-planning everything you say
– Lighten up and not take yourself so seriously
– To build more confidence
– Be more creative
Tip 2 – Try TED
TED is a free online conference channel where you can hear some brilliant speakers give inspiring talks.
Technology, entertainment and design are just 3 of the countless topics you can learn about.
For me, it’s really like an open university of public speaking
It’s a powerful learning platform for both the nervous presenter and experienced speaker.
The really good TED Talks will show you how to
– Open and close a presentation with impact
– Speak mindfully without filler words
– Connect with your audience emotionally
– Interact with your audience
– Communicate effectively through your body language
– Feel confident about public speaking
Tip 3 – Start as you mean to go on
Each time we have a nervous presenter in our workshops we always hear the same thing.
‘The first two minutes are the worst but once I get going I’m usually okay’.
It’s entirely normal and affects even the most seasoned presenters
Practice your opening line over and over again until you know it like the back of your hand.
Once you’ve delivered it your breathing will change and you will find your flow.
Practicing your opening will:
– Boost your confidence
– Capture your audience’s immediate attention
– Help you to focus on your audience rather than yourself
– Set the tone for the rest of your presentation
Tip 4 – Dress for success
If you look great and feel comfortable you will find it a lot easier to focus on your audience rather than yourself.
Take time to get it right.
Practice your presentation in exactly the same outfit and shoes you intend to wear on the day.
– Wear something that you’re comfortable in that makes you feel good
– Avoid wearing anything that restricts your ability to move
– Keep It Simple. If it can be distracting during a presentation, don’t wear it.
– Avoid brand new clothes
Tip 5 – Get to love the sound of your own voice
Most of us speak on ‘autopilot’.
In other words, for the most part we are not really conscious of how we sound.
Practice using your voice, stretching it and most importantly listening to it.
Our vocal chords are muscles
– Make them stronger with vocal exercises
– Record and listen to your own voice
– Practice slowing down and pausing
– Experiment with your volume, pitch, tone and pace. Have some fun.
Tip 6 – Phone a friend
Once you’ve prepared your presentation call a friend to sit and speak with you.
Talk them through your presentation and ideas. Don’t present or perform it, just share with them what it’s all about.
Explain how you see things and how you’d like your audience to feel.
As you do so, you may see the difference between the way you have a conversation about it and the way you present your idea.
Focus on being more conversational
– Don’t read to your audience
– Involve your audience
– Make eye contact with them
– Lose the jargon
Tip 7 – Challenge your beliefs
A belief is nothing more than a thought we keep thinking over and over again.
It doesn’t make it either true or even real
Write down everything that makes you nervous or worries you about presenting, for example:
– ‘I’ll forget my speech’
– ‘They won’t like me’
– ‘I’ll embarrass myself’
– ‘I might freeze’
Write down the very worst thing that can happen as a result:
– ‘I’ll forget my speech’ – ‘I’ll look stupid and they’ll never take me serious again, I’ll be a laughing stock’.
What is the likelihood that your fear will be realised?
Challenge your negative beliefs.
They don’t go away or change until we repeatedly challenge them.
Tip 8 – Don’t just wait, do something different
The nervous presenter often worries about everything that could happen during and after their presentation.
They worry long before the stand up to speak
Before you are scheduled to speak, do something different to orient yourself to the present.
– Listen to your favourite music
– Count backwards
– Focus on your breathing for a few minutes
– Press against a wall or do something that engages you physically
– Practice slowly tensing and relaxing every muscle in your body individually and relaxing it
– Repeat some tongue twisters
Tip 9 – Create a clear path
The nervous presenter often has either too little structure to their presentation or too complex a structure.
That can make them anxious about losing their way.
Create a clear and easy path for both you and your audience
One that is easy to remember and follow so that if you do stray, you can always find your way back.
Make sure the very first thing you do is get your audience’s attention.
Say, show or do something that will spark their curiosity and heighten their interest immediately.
Make sure that everything you share is completely relevant to your audience.
Help them to relax right from the start by knowing for certain that they are in the right room.
Don’t be like a comedian and save your punchline for the end.
Make your point early and ensure it’s clear and compelling.
Don’t leave it to your audience to try to work out what it is you mean.
Bring your message to life by giving them clear, relevant and rich examples of what you’re talking about.
Tell your audience what you want them to do next; don’t leave them guessing
Be very explicit.
Tip 10 – Choose a number
Imagine confidence being highly visible on a scale of 1 to 10.
With 1 representing very little, if any confidence at all.
10 making you feel like you are invincible.
Practice your presentation repeatedly holding in mind that you are an 8 on the scale of confidence.
Practice bringing that level of confidence to life through the way you:
If you are a nervous presenter and need some help:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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