Deft Communications specializes in helping our clients prepare for all manner of presentations, whether it’s going on camera as a spokesperson, delivering a keynote speech to a large auditorium, or simply conducting a small team meeting. This blog series will periodically provide best practices for any type of presentation you do.
Jerry Seinfeld has a joke that says speaking in front of a crowd is considered the #1 fear of the average person. #2 is death. That means to the average person that if you have to be at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.
We believe that because we know how to speak, we can easily speak in public. This is a fallacy. We were taught how to speak just as we were taught to do anything else. It stands to reason that we should be taught how to speak in public as well. Because speaking in public can seem daunting, and with that comes nerves, here are some tips to managing that nervousness.
The first (and best) way to calm your nerves is as easy as it is annoying. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
The most common cause of nerves is a lack of preparation. Many feel that because they’re likely being asked to speak on something with which they’re very familiar, they can “wing it.” No matter how well you know the information, it’s imperative to make notes or an outline of the material you want to cover. Why? Because no matter how familiar you are with the material, being in front of an audience adds a layer of tension that can cause you to lose your train of thought or make the material magically disappear from your head. Having notes will help keep you on topic, allow you to pick back up where you left off (if it happens), ensure you don’t forget an important point, and quell your jangly nerves.
Second, recognize what you do when you’re nervous, and then mitigate it.
Do you flip your hair, tap the podium, sway back and forth or all three? Your audience will focus on your distracting nervous behavior, not you, and certainly not your message. By managing your nervous habits – in the cases mentioned above, think about wearing your hair up, putting paper on the podium to absorb the noise of tapping, or planting your feet in a wide stance) your audience can focus on you, and you can focus on your message. Then everyone gets the most out of your presentation.
Finally, understand that nerves are natural, and although it may seem counterintuitive, beneficial. Being nervous is a sign that you care and that you want to do a good job. Never try to rid of yourself of nerves fully (and especially never use chemicals to eradicate them). Instead, channel that energy in a productive direction and use them to visualize yourself doing a good job. The times I am most nervous are when I am most passionate, and when I want my presentation to be perfect.
Speaking in public doesn’t come naturally to most, and the above tips are just a start. If you would still prefer to be in the coffin instead of giving the eulogy, we can help.
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