Dreading to speak in front of an audience? Don’t worry, it’s human and it’s common. However, you’ll face this situation quite often, whether it’s at work, with clients, while networking, at an event, etc.
I’ve once feared speaking in public. But I used this fear to turn it into a mantra, repeating myself “These people are expecting you to explain them something, so now it’s your time to give them the best impression of yourself, to show them you’re confident”. This worked for me for years. See public-speaking as a positive opportunity for you to stand out from the others. You’ll only look even more professional in their eyes.
Now I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about public speaking. Essentially, it’s important to increase your self-confidence prior to crack on using your creativity for your presentation.
I hope these tips, in two parts, will reassure you from now on the idea of standing and presenting in front of people.
Boost your confidence
Plan and prepare
To feel more confident in general, the best is to plan and prepare a maximum, to overcome any difficult situations that might shake self-confidence. A good exercise for this ahead of any presentation is to repeat in front of others and gain their feedback for areas of improvement, and plan any questions that might be asked. Most importantly, taking control of unknown situations will reduce the fear of failing and help you be more confident in every situation.
Know your subject inside out
Learn your subject 100%. Research, cross-reference, ask the others some feedback, verify your sources. There are so many possibilities to learn and knowing your subject inside out will make you feel more confident. You don’t need to learn your subject by heart but show others your passion about it will increase your credibility.
Chase the negative thoughts away for good. Easier said than done, I know… However, here’s a little task to help you be more positive about yourself: on a piece of paper, list all your strengths and successes and learn from your weaknesses and mistakes. What worked well? What needs to be improved in the future? Also, what about writing one thing per day that made you smile or that you’re really proud of, or perhaps a compliment? Compile up this list somewhere and read it some time to time, it’ll give your self-confidence a boost and make you more generally positive and ready for the next day.
Find your role model
Find a person who has a lot of confidence and you’d like to mirror, observe how they act and speak in public. How does he/she behave? It can be someone in your family, a friend, a leader or a celebrity. Also, generally, being surrounded by confident people helps increase your self-confidence.
Always believe in yourself, stick to your principles, accept who you are and stand for yourself is what assertive means. If you believe the right thing to do is to change your mind and not getting influenced by other people, then do. Assertiveness comes naturally with better self-confidence.
There’s usually a link between confidence and calmness. Preparing, anticipating situations will help you keep in control and not feeling stressed. However, don’t worry if anything doesn’t go entirely to plan in a presentation. For example, if you talk through a slide early. The audience won’t know this, so keep calm about it, or just make fun of it. It will only make you human and establish a connection with your public.
Don’t feel or act superior to others. Nobody’s perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and there’s always something to learn from it. Give others credit for their work, use compliments, be courteous and polite. Also, show a genuine interest in what others are doing by asking questions and getting involved.
Develop your self-confidence skills
Ultimately, when you start applying some of the previous tips, your self-confidence will increase. You can also learn from various sessions on time management.
Boost your presentation
Fuel your mental engine
Eat healthily: dopamine helps, and make sure to include proteins in the meal or eat before you need to be at your best. But don’t wait until the last minute to eat.
Exercise before a speaking event
Do some work out to burn cortisol (and then reduce stress) before your presentation.
Don’t overload your slides
Minimize the content on your slides and make your font size double the average age of your audience. A slider should always act as support.
Anticipate dysfunctional equipment
Any « what ifs » related to equipment fails might pop in your mind and can be a source of anxiety. Find alternatives for presenting your speech if anything was to not be working correctly.
Establish a pre-routine
Try to center emotionally, walk through the room ahead of time to check everything (i.e. microphone levels). Tell yourself a positive stance (that “mantra” you created for yourself), breath and talk slowly.
Don’t do your prep onstage
Don’t wait until you’re on stage to check everything, but do all this ahead. If something fails, smile and look confident while you (or others) take care of the issue.
Share at least one thing no one knows
Find a surprising fact related to your topic that will retain your audience’s attention and that they’ll want to share about afterward.
Benefit the audience instead of « selling »
Thinking in terms of sales adds pressure to what’s already stressful. Ensure the audience benefits from what you say. When you help people making their professional or personal lives better, you’ve done all the selling.
Share a genuinely emotional story
Tell a story and let your emotions show. When you share genuine feelings you create an immediate and lasting connection with your audience.
Pause for 10 seconds
After 10 seconds of silence, even the people texting can’t help looking up. When you start speaking again, the audience assumes the pause was intentional, and that you’re a confident and accomplished speaker. Also, it helps you with gathering your thoughts.
Give the audience something to take home
Provide something specific that the audience can do almost immediately. Every audience appreciates learning a tangible way they can actually apply to what they’ve learned in their own lives. For example: « Today, let’s think about an employee who enjoys public speaking and ask him tomorrow about… »
That means someone is listening! The best presentations should feel like conversations, so never ignore that opportunity to foster that sense of interaction.
Ask a question you can’t answer
Asking questions to engage the audience usually feels forced. Instead, ask a question you know the audience can’t answer and say « That’s okay. I can’t either ». Explain why and talk about what you do know. Most speakers have all the answers. The fact that you don’t and are willing to admit it not only humanizes you but makes the audience pay greater attention to what you do know
Don’t read your slides
Your audience should be able to instantly scan your slides. If they have to read them, you might lose them. And if you read the slides to them, you’ll definitely lose them. Your slides should support your points, not be the point.
Focus on earning attention
Make your presentation so interesting, entertaining, inspiring that people can’t help but pay attention. It’s your job to make them want to listen.
Always repeat audience questions
It helps you understand the question fully, but also because not everyone in the audience may have heard it the first time.
Always repeat yourself
Your audience will hear half of what you say and filter that through their own perspective. Create a structure allowing you to repeat and reinforce key points. What you repeat has a greater chance to be remembered.
Always run short
If you have 30 minutes, take 25. If you have an hour, take 50. It gives time to remove necessary equipment if any next presentation, and/or take time with your audience.
I hope these tips will make you enjoy public-speaking more and be a shining star in front of your audience!
And don’t forget to SPEAK UP!