You are not alone!
It’s time to stand up in front of your clients, customers, business partners, project team or training delegates to convey everything you know to an audience. They will be hanging on your every word.
Maybe you are contemplating a job interview or have been persuaded to make a speech at a wedding reception to hundreds of guests.
So why are you shaking, scared, sweating, feeling ill, or even losing sleep?
Perhaps you fear making mistakes, forgetting what to say or losing your train of thought. Could it be the possibility of an aggressive audience ‘grilling’ you; ‘picking holes’ in your argument, not liking you, not laughing at your jokes or being unable to answer their probing questions?
Don’t be afraid! It’s not just you.
Firstly, we all possess the fight or flight response which stems from the amygdala in our brain, detecting fear of things out of our control and our emotions, including anxiety.
Secondly, The Book of Lists reports the Top Ten Human Fears as:
- Speaking before a Group
- Insects and bugs
- Financial problems
- Deep water
As Jay Leno quipped, “I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”
Public speaking is also the number-one fear for Americans, with death at number five, and loneliness at seven, which could mean that most are less afraid of dying alone than making fools of themselves in front of others. Further facts and figures about public speaking show just how widespread this fear is.
So, what can you do about it?
In my experience as a seasoned trainer and teacher, the key to efficient, successful presenting is preparation. Unless I am fully knowledgeable about my topic, with associated notes and visuals and have made time to practise my delivery, I invariably suffer from nerves.
To improve your performance, prepare thoroughly;
- Establish a clear purpose; what do you want your audience to Do, Decide or Know?
- Research your topic; consolidate key facts and figures
- Find out about your audience; their background, knowledge and experience
- Anticipate 5-10 ‘killer’ questions that could arise; include responses in your presentation to reduce the prospect of being challenged by a hostile attendee.
- Assemble notes and visuals
- Give yourself time to set up in advance and check any technology on your stage
- Consider techniques such as mindfulness and visualisation to relax and calm your nerves
- Rehearse your opening ‘Hook’ to capture attention from the outset and learn it off by heart. Rhetorical questions or shocking statements can make people sit up and take notice
- Deliver with a strong voice, assertive tone and varied intonation; don’t forget to breathe
- Display confident body language, posture and appropriate gestures
- Share eye contact with the whole audience; smile occasionally
- Finish strongly with a Clear, Relevant & Memorable message for the audience to take away.
Finally, remember that you are ‘on stage’ on merit and, for the duration of this presentation, you are the boss!