Public speaking is a fabulous avenue to grow your business, build credibility, rally people for your cause or share you story.
All you need to do is get up in front of an audience and share your riveting presentation…. wait, what??? Get up in front of an audience and speak??? Reality is, many people would rather hide UNDER the stage, than stand on top of it and speak.
If this is you, here are 5 pro-tips to get you speaking with confidence:
To prepare your presentation, gather all the content you want to speak about and create a speech outline.
- Give extra attention to your opening – if you ace your opening, you will feel much more confident about the rest of your presentation.
- Think about the flow of your presentation – are there segments that seem long? Depending on your content, that sometimes can’t be avoided (especially if you deliver a data-heavy presentation). If you find a long segment, think of how you could break up the information. A story or an interactive component may help you to keep your audience’s interest level dialed in at “high”.
- Does your presentation have a question and answer period? This can be often a major source of nervousness for speakers – because it’s the moment you give up control of your speech and are venturing into the unknown… you just never know what questions come at you (I know, I have been surprised before!). One of the strategies you can use is to make a list of questions you may expect – and think of how you can answer them. Also, be sure to create a system for follow up for any questions you cannot answer (there is nothing wrong with saying “that’s a great question, but I need to get more information before I can answer it. Come and see me after the speech and I’ll get your contact information to follow up with you.”
Practice, practice and then practice some more. Don’t be fooled by professional speakers seeming laid back and confident on stage. The old saying really is true “practice makes perfect”. Once you have created your speech, be sure to rehearse it. As you start this process, you may feel more confident practicing on your own (pets are great listeners!!). The next step is to practice in front of a small, supportive audience (friends, family). When you do that, be sure to set up a feedback protocol – ask for honest, but supportive feedback that helps you grow (not crush) your confidence.
If you have a chance, practice your presentation at the venue (even if it’s just part of your presentation)… practice standing on stage/in front of the room and get a feel for the space.
Food & Drinks
Be mindful of what you eat and drink prior to your presentation. Nervousness often translates to your stomach also being nervous. This is not a time to try new foods; stay with what you know works for you. This is not a time to worry about having the “healthiest” meal; eat what makes you feel good. The same goes for drinking (no, I’m not talking about alcohol – having a drink to calm your nerves is a terrible idea!). Choose your beverages based on what your body likes. Water of course should always be plentiful, and you should also have water on stage with you if possible. Some people love herbal teas… personally that’s not me – peppermint tea for example sends me to the washroom frequently, so that’s a beverage I strictly avoid when I speak. You know your body best, don’t let anyone else tell you what you should and shouldn’t have… if a scoop of ice cream calms your nerves, go for it!
Your audience doesn’t know what you’re missing
This is probably one of the biggest secrets to being confident on stage. Remember that your audience doesn’t know the presentation you have prepared. If you miss a part, they will never know. If you tell a story at a different time that you had planned, they will never know. We get so nervous about “getting it right” that we forget to remember that our audience’s expectations of us are not nearly as high as the expectations we place on ourselves.
We have 3 speeches – the one we prepare, the one we give, and the one we give on the drive home (this one is the best one of course!!). Trust that the speech you give will be just right for your audience!
Don’t draw attention to your nervousness
You may be shaking like a leaf inside, but don’t share your nervousness with your audience. If you get on stage (and I’m sure you have seen speakers do that) and talk about how nervous you are about speaking, it’ll be all your audience will focus on. Sure, they may feel compassion for you, but they will be distracted from your message.
Don’t talk about it, don’t mention it… because reality is, you don’t look nearly as nervous on the outside as you may feel on the inside. As you start your presentation that reality will sink in and as you speak you will notice that people are interested in your message and respect you for standing up and sharing your message (after all, most of them will be just as nervous about the idea of standing in front of an audience as you have been).
So, the next time you have an opportunity to speak, step into it… you may surprise yourself! And remember… your audience wants you to succeed!
I believe in you,
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