One of the first things that we like to tell our new members when they give their first speech is that its okay to be nervous when speaking in public. In fact, nervousness can actually be quite helpful, it helps us think about all the possible problems and allows us to work out how to deal with those problems in advance.
It’s only when those nerves threaten to overwhelm us that the problems start. Here are four ways of thinking that will make you feel more confident in front of an audience and help you calm those presentation jitters:
1. You Are The Expert
Usually when you’re asked to speak it’s going to be about something that you’re working on or knowledgeable about, this gives you a natural advantage – you’re the expert, your role is to educate your audience about your area of experience. Not only that, there’s less chance of going blank because you’re talking in your comfort zone, this will also help to give you the confidence to stand up and share a topic that excites you.
If it’s a topic where you’re not an expert then learn more, get to know the subject so that if you’re asked questions about your topic you are ready to answer.
Remember: knowledge is power, knowledge is confidence.
2. You Can Train Your Brain
All the experts say that the more you give speeches to groups, the easier it gets. Unfortunately this is a bit of a chicken and an egg scenario – how can you get over your speaking nerves by giving more speeches if your nerves stop you from giving speeches?
The secret is practice. Practice is about eliminating reasons for you to be nervous or scared. Practice gives you the chance to find out what parts of the presentation are the hardest to remember, practice shows you the words or phrases that trip you up and practice shows you the areas where you know your stuff which allows you to concentrate on the weaker areas of your presentation.
Above all practice is training your brain to put aside your fears, the more you practice in the days or weeks coming up to your presentation, the more your brain gets used to you giving a presentation without problems so by the time you stand up to give the actual presentation your brain already knows that it’s going to go well because it went well in the practice sessions.
Practice early, practice often.
3. You Have Backup
Even if you have practiced your presentation until you can recite it forwards and backwards, sometimes there can still be a niggling worry in your head about going blank and forgetting what to say next. Don’t worry, you have a backup plan – your notes.
Write your notes on small cards, small enough to put in your jacket pocket. The key to effective notecards is not to write the whole speech onto them, instead write on them the main points, key words or phrases and difficult to remember facts or statistics.
Have a notecard for each section of your presentation, this keeps it simple, you will know which section you’re on so you will be able to find the section quickly. Write on the cards in big clear writing so that if you do need to use them you can read them quickly and easily.
4. You Have Support In The Audience
One mistake that nervous speakers make is that they don’t make eye contact with the audience, they look at their notes and by doing this you are missing out on one of the best confidence boosters that you can find, your audience.
Your audience want you to succeed, they want you to educate them and learn about your ideas and even better than that, there’s always some friendly encouraging people in your audience.
It can definitely be scary to see all those people looking at you and listening to you but the first step to feeling confident in front of any audience is to find the friendly faces and talk to them. Then once you get over the initial nerves and start to feel more confidant, find more people in the audience to talk to and share your ideas with them as well until you’ve brought in the whole group.
An easy way to help calm your nerves and find those friendly faces is when you get up to speak, pause before speaking and follow these simple steps – Breathe, Smile, Begin
Look at the audience and breathe in, breathe deeply, allow the oxygen to fill your lungs, to stimulate your mind and to relax you.
Smile and let the smile spread through your whole body because you’re the expert, you’ve practiced, you’ve got your backup notes, there is nothing to worry about, it’s going to be great. Smiling will also make you look confident and feel more confident. While you’re smiling look around the room, look for the people who smile back, these will be your first friendly faces. Talk to them.
Then, and only then – Begin.
It’s mainly the first few minutes of a speech that you need to contol your nerves, once you get through those first few minutes, you’ve very little to worry about.
If you enjoyed this post then why not try more of our presentation tips:
image: Symphony of Love (Flickr)