When you’d rather die than make a speech or presentation, your fear colours everything.
You look out at the audience and you see a room full of hungry lions and you’re the lone rabbit they’re focused on. You feel certain they are out to get you. Let’s look at some ways of taking the stress out of speaking in public.
First of all, it’s been my experience that most audiences:
- don’t really want you to fail
- want to learn from you
- will forgive a lot if you’re sincere
- at worst are neutral, waiting to make up their minds about you once they’ve heard you speak
- really don’t want to eat you. Well maybe if you’re a politician facing a hostile audience
Now there are a lot of crazy solutions for getting over your fear of the audience. One of those is to picture the audience naked. How that doesn’t make you forget what you’re supposed to say is beyond me.
I have some more practical suggestions that have helped my clients overcome their anxieties:
- Face your fears. In other words, look at the audience understanding that you have something to give which they need. You’re there to help them. They need you. So focus on serving them instead of avoiding them.
- Take a couple of seconds to adjust to being in front of an audience. Do not begin speaking immediately, making lame jokes, talking about the weather. Instead, take a couple of seconds, counting 1001, 1002 in your head and breathing deeply. Absorb the energy of the room. Make confident eye contact with the audience. Pause. Breathe. Then start speaking.
- Before you speak, go somewhere quiet. Stand tall and repeat an affirmation of your choice a few times in your head. It could be ‘I love my audience’, or ‘They really want to hear me’, or any appropriate affirming phrase.
- Finally, if you’ve creating your speech or presentation using my TalkitOut technique, you will automatically reduce your nerves by at least 50%. That’s because TalkitOut uses your authentic voice. You prepared by tapping into your natural, sincere self. You won’t be standing there struggling to deliver words that don’t flow naturally off the tongue, or using grand phrases in an effort to impress rather than share insight. Authenticity engages audiences.
One other thought. Slow down. Anxiety can make us a little speedy. And that just makes things worse. As you talk more quickly a couple of bad things happen. One is that you start to stumble over your words – and that just increases the anxiety level. The other problem is that audiences find it harder to keep track of your words and to process your message.
Slow down. Pause at the end of each sentence. You’ll calm your breathing, improve your delivery, and enhance comprehension. And that’s a win for everybody.
Halina St James takes the worry out of presentations with her Present Like a Pro video training course. It’s available now from the Podium Coaching online store, together with her popular TalkitOut: From Fears to Cheers e-book and workbook.