“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” —Mark Twain
Presenting in front of an audience, whether small or large, can be daunting—even when you do it regularly.
Of course, not everyone has a hard time with public speaking. For example my business partner, Crystal, loves public speaking. She’s a natural at it.
Me? Not so much.
I actually had to work pretty hard to overcome my fear of getting in front of an audience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but I have found ways to feel confident and even enjoy speaking in front of a group.
Of course, a big part of that was just doing it enough times to feel comfortable. However, beyond that there actually are some simple things you can do to give a great presentation, even when you feel super nervous.
Here’s what helped me the most.
1. Know Your Stuff
Feeling comfortable speaking in front of others means knowing your material inside and out.
As an exercise, imagine a friend asking you in-depth questions about your topic. How would you share the content of your presentation? As you imagine this conversation, try to respond naturally (and with enthusiasm) to the questions asked.
To really nail your presentation, practice out loud and in front of a mirror so that you get comfortable with your voice and body language. Knowing your content and rehearsing it will give a huge boost to your confidence.
2. Don’t Be Anyone But You
As important as it is to know your material, it’s also important for your audience to feel that they’re engaged in a conversation with you.
The best way to do that is to be yourself and allow things to flow organically. Ask questions, allow for pauses, and be receptive to what is being said. Be present and really listen when someone asks a question, and you’ll know how to respond.
Be authentic as you share your information. Your audience will feel your authenticity and respond in kind.
3. Enhance Your Presentation
Presentations are about more than giving a speech. Have handouts at the ready that detail what you’re delivering. (Also—pro-tip—print your handouts and other materials in advance. And print more than you think you’ll need. Believe me, you’ll avoid a lot of problems this way.)
If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, make it visual with images and quotes. Definitely don’t read your power point—instead, use it as a prompt to get to the heart of what you want to say.
Additionally, use music to bring your audience in. Recently Crystal and I attended a two-day workshop where live music was actually woven into the presentation. Some of the PowerPoint had video embedded in it, too. It was lots of fun! It kept things changing so that the audience was very engaged. Consider how to tastefully use music and video to enhance your presentation.
Lastly, make it interactive. Approach your material as though it’s a conversation you’re having with your audience. They’ll feel more connected and, as a result, will be more likely to take part during discussion times, etc.
4. Being Nervous is Okay
Feeling nervous when speaking in front of a crowd is natural. In fact, that feeling of nervousness can give you an edge.
The added energy of nervousness can support you in being clear and passionate about your content. It will give you focus. Remember above all that the feeling of nervousness is just a feeling, and unless you tell them about it, your audience won’t have any idea how nervous you actually are.
That said, one way to take the edge off nervousness in advance is to visualize yourself completing an amazing, wonderful presentation. Imagine all the details of what a perfect presentation looks like. See yourself feeling confident and knowing all your content, with the audience engaged and participating.
Set your intention for what you want to achieve in your presentation for yourself and your audience. Say it to yourself or someone else before you go on.
5. Stay Grounded
When you’re ready to present and are in front of your audience, take a moment to ground yourself. Feel your feet connected to the earth and the energy of the earth coming up through the soles of your shoes. Take a moment to scan the room before you begin speaking, and let your audience feel that you are seeing them as you look around. It’s okay to be silent for a moment.
Take a deep breath. Smile. And most of all, be yourself.
We’d love to hear your tips or experiences on giving presentations. Please share in the comments.