Very few people approach public speaking without anxiety. Some speakers only need to warm up and then they are fine. Others, only need to be dragged into the room and onto the stage; and then revived. Luckily, most people are not that fearful. According to a 2018 Chapman University Survey, public speaking is less of a concern than cyberterrorism, identity theft, losing your phone, computers replacing people in the workforce, snowstorms and 54 other fears. Wherever you are on the spectrum of fear, if you can use a little help in getting over your presentation jitters, here’s some advice:
Remember that you are already an accomplished “performer.”
Whether at work, helping a child with homework or entertaining people in your home, you are already playing a part. As a leader, parent or friend, you alter your behavior to suit the circumstance, becoming more professional, supportive or entertaining. When you are doing a presentation, you are taking many of the same well-practiced behaviors into your session.
Develop personal preparation moments to focus your efforts, get you in the mood and calm your nerves.
Start practicing them in low-pressure situations so that they are working when you need them most.
Empathy rituals help you to get in tune with your audience.
Meet and talk with your audience before your presentation. Walk around the room or facility to get a sense of what your audience will see and experience.
Warmup rituals should be part of your speaking regiment to get your body prepared.
You can find many warmup exercises online, but these will get you started:
- Prepare your voice by drinking room temperature water. Take a few deep breaths. Then practice a few lines from your talk by articulating each sound deliberately.
- Get your body warm and limber. Do some light stretching of your neck. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, hold and release a few times. Shake out your arms and hands.
Turn your nervous energy into excitement with a relaxation ritual.
Before you begin your talk, take a few more slow, deep, relaxing breaths. Breathe in from your nose and out through your mouth.
Practice smiling. You may be the only person in the room, but start smiling before you begin your talk so that the warmth you feel follows you into your presentation.
Preparation rituals are a great way to calm your nerves before your next big talk. However, being prepared is even better. The diagram below lists steps you can take to prepare. (More detail on each of these steps can be found in the Gartner research note; A CIO’s Guide to Better Storytelling and Presentations.)
Under normal circumstances, an abrasive interruption, a slideshow malfunction or an adjustment in timing could be a major failure. However, since you will have prepared, you are ready to meet any challenge. Don’t forget: A bad day makes for a great story. But this will be a story of triumph. Now go practice.
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