Fear is the greatest deterrent for would-be presenters. But leaders and salespeople must speak in public, and seasoned professionals realise the value of leading from the front. When nerves threaten your presentation, remember that the audience can only gain access to your state of mind through your body language. You may feel the fear, but if you don’t show it, they won’t know it.
Use these guidelines to set your nerves at ease:
1. Know your content well.
This is the single most effective means of overcoming nerves. The better you know your subject, the more at ease you will feel.
2. Rehearse your presentation beforehand.
You can do this as a mental exercise, as well as out loud. If you are able to rehearse inthe actual venue, so much the better. There is no substitute for having “done it already”.
3. Take hot water with you into the room.
Sip on it as you wait to be introduced. This will help to keep your vocal chords warm, and your mouth moist, during a lengthy wait.
4. Chat with the audience beforehand.
Before your presentation begins, shake a few hands and build familiarity.
5. Begin in a loud, confident voice.
Much like a newspaper headline over a paragraph of text, the opening line of your presentation should be slightly louder and more slowly spoken, than the sentences that follow. This aids audience understanding and will set the tone for a confident presentation right from the outset.
6. Use pauses.
A rushed pace will make you look nervous. Go so far as to plan where you will place your first three or four pauses. Consider sipping a glass of water, as a way to deliberately pause and reign in a “runaway” nervous pace.
7. Use humour.
Setting your audience at ease always helps. Use a little tasteful, playful humour up front, in order to break the ice.
8. Prepare a strong closing.
This will give you the confidence of knowing you are building up to something great.
9. Give a total performance.
Even when you are nervous, don’t fidget with clothes or papers on the way up, or down, from the front of the room. The audience is always watching you. If you look nervous, they will see it and it can change the atmosphere. And don’t ever display “reluctant” body language. Even if the presentation is a chore, show that you are taking it seriously.
10. And finally, have fun!
Although this is probablythe hardest thing for a nervous speaker to do, the truth is that when you enjoy yourself, the audience picks up on your positive vibe. You’d be surprised how many mistakes you can get away with if both you and the audience are enjoying the experience.