You’ve been invited to deliver a speech or give a presentation and even though you may have said yes, as it is a great opportunity to showcase your personal brand or business – you are scared to death.
Not uncommon. Many budding speakers face this problem and I’ve certainly been there. The knocking knees, clammy hands and shortness of breath are real.
I often work with clients one-to-one on their presentation skills and the number one obstacle they tell me they are facing is – nerves – and how to get over them. It is a real fear – there is even a word for it glossophobia – fear of speaking in public.
But don’t let this put you off. You can overcome your fear of public speaking with plenty of practise and implementing these six tips.
Be Prepared. Plan and structure your presentation and then practise. Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. Rehearse your presentation in front of friends. You may be tempted to just “wing it” as you want to come across as natural and spontaneous. That is of course the desired response, to appear as though the presentation is effortless yet interesting. But you’re better off having a few run-throughs in front of a familiar audience first.
Shake it Off. Move around backstage or in another room to release some pent-up energy. Swing your arms, do a few star jumps, strut it out or do a few power poses. Let out that sound and breath too with some car karaoke on the way or singing in the bathroom. Laugh out loud. It’s a good idea to warm up your voice with vocal exercise and tongue twisters before your speech.
Stillness. Now that you have that energy bar raised – be still and let the breathing be soft. Deep breathing, slow and steady will calm some of those nerves. One technique I use, is to count backwards quietly to yourself, from 100 minus three. 100, 97, etc. Concentrating on the numbers will slow the breathing and reduce the adrenalin rush. Once you commence your presentation, speak a little more slowly so you don’t sound too hurried (or harried). It’s okay to pause here and there so the audience has time to understand what you are saying.
Sip Water. Keep hydrated as a dry mouth due to the increased adrenaline will hinder your speech. Avoid coffee or tea with milk or even the sugar rush of a fizzy drink before you speak. Instead sip room temperature water slowly. Have a glass of water to the side of the stage and if you need a pause or sip it’s just fine to do that. I think a small glass is preferable to bottled water as to drink from a bottle can be more awkward.
See Your Success. If you can walk around the room or on the stage beforehand, picture yourself there, owning that space and sharing it with friendly people and faces. Visualise yourself in front of your audience who are smiling, engaged and interested in what you have to say. Imagine that one person who loves you is in the audience and cheering you on.
Smile. You’ll look a lot friendlier and feel more relaxed. Pause, make eye contact and just smile. This will give you a moment to gather yourself to deliver your first couple of lines with impact. Being in control in those first few moments will help you relax into the rest of your talk and at the same time take the focus off you to focus on delivering the message your audience is there to hear.
Experienced speakers have the ability to add performance technique to enhance the final delivery with storytelling, ad lib, and spontaneity. This comes with time and practise. That is not to say a speaker, experienced or otherwise does not feel nervous sometimes. It is natural, particularly if you are doing something new. It is their years of study, preparation and practise that helps with those pre-show jitters.
I hope these few tips help you too, as public speaking is one of the best ways to highlight your personal brand.
Learn more about how to communicate your personal brand message in my free video series Your Nook, Look, Hook, 3 Steps to Build a Stand Out Personal Brand
Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is passionate about helping business executives and entrepreneurial professionals elevate their personal brand, image and professional presence. Sue’s suite of services delivered through workshops, consulting, coaching and keynote presentations provides a multi-faceted approach to gain high transformation for her clients.