Everybody who speaks in public will encounter nerves at some point. As Mark Twain once famously wrote “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars” so don’t feel too perturbed by a presentation or speech that you’re going to have to make, you’re in good company!
You may have already read my mini-blog post about how to overcome nerves when public speaking……and here’s more for you to digest!
1. As the days lead up to your presentation, practice creative visualisation. This is what I referred to as seeing things in your mind’s eye in that earlier post. Public speaking fear stems from your unconscious thoughts and feelings about failing. The key to successful visualisations is simultaneously feeling positive emotions attached to images that you can see. Imagine the arena or room where you’ll be speaking. Try and feel the wonderful sense of achievement when you realise the audience really like what you’ve said. Now imagine how it must feel when you hear the rapturous applause once you’ve finished and how great it feels when people come up to you and offer to shake your hand. Close your eyes for a moment and picture the warm feelings you’ll get when you receive those accolades. Persevere with those images and feelings for as long as is practical and repeat the process as many times as possible.
2. About an hour before your presentation do some deep diaphragm breathing, then inhale through your nose and hold for 10 seconds. Exhale through your mouth. Hum the lowest note that you are able to for about 10 seconds. You should be able to feel the natural resonance of your voice. Hum a high note and gradually decrease its pitch until you can drop it no further. Hold this low note until your lungs are completely empty. You should now notice that you are able to hum a note noticeably lower than you were able to during the previous exercise.
3. When you start speaking, open with a personal story. Anecdotes and stories help you get into the “zone” of speaking or presenting and will break the ice with the audience. You’ll be familiar with the material and it’ll be easy for you to be animated with an energetic and expressive voice. And don’t forget those hand gestures!
4. Some audiences prefer a conversational-style talk to a “presentation.” If so, start with an interactive opening. Ask the audience a question, preferably an open-ended one (who, what, where, when, why, how). Call them by name and engage them by asking their ideas and thoughts. A non-responsive audience can be quickly transformed into an informal gathering, sharing their ideas and perspective.
5. If you feel the nerves coming on, think of that as energy rather than quivering fear! Direct that energy into what you want to say.
6. Use strong movements and gestures with your energetic voice and you will command more attention and project more charisma.
7. Sustain eye contact with individual members of your audience. Also, use the “up and down” or “Z” techniques if you are speaking to larger audiences. You’ll project confidence and your presentation will feel more like an informal conversation.
8. Speak often. There is really no substitute for experience. As your experience grows you will have less fears. You’ll eventually find that you relish the opportunity to speak in public.