At some point in your career you’re going to have to do a presentation, if you haven’t already, and although many of you will thrive on them…others will want to curl up into a ball and die at the very thought of it.
The thing about public speaking is that the build up is often much more nerve racking than the actual event itself. I know this because I’ve often been thrown into situations where I had to take control of something at the last minute and address an audience – and it didn’t faze me one bit; I’d jump into it completely unprepared and unscripted but not one bit unnerved – because I didn’t have time to be. But when something is scheduled, you can spend so long planning it and rehearsing it that it becomes this massive thing in your head for absolutely no reason at all. So how do you get around it? Well, it’s not easy. Some people are naturally born speakers and some aren’t. Some people suffer from anxiety issues, and some don’t. Some people are more ‘phone/online communication’ types and some people thrive on face to face. Some people are introverts and some people are extroverts. Everyone is different and every will prepare for their presentations in a different way. But for those who have difficulties, here are a few ways to convert all of that nervous energy into enthusiasm on the big day.
Getting stuck in traffic, running over to the door and spilling coffee down your top in the process, is not going to help the situation. Take it easy. Get up early, have a nice breakfast, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the meeting whether you’re heading straight from home or the office.
Meet and Greet
The more ‘real’ the situation feels to you, the easier it will be to present. Most events will have 30mins of tea/coffee/wine if you’re lucky beforehand to allow guest to mingle. It’ll be much easier to face a bunch of people you hardly know when you’ve already broken the ice.
You’re smiling at this, but I’m serious. Breathe. It’s normally something we don’t even realise we’re doing, and yet people tend to completely forget about it when they’re presenting, e.g. ‘Ihavetogetasmanywordsoutasicaninthesamesentenceorillforget! GASP!!!’ Deep breathing techniques are really helpful when it comes to presenting; generally if you think you’re talking really, really slow – then you’re talking at exactly the right pace.
Smiling is contagious and it projects a calm, enthusiastic and likeable persona. Just don’t over-do it, there’s a fine line between ‘happy’ and ‘manic’.
Bluffing is one thing, but lying through your teeth is another, so when the dreaded Q&A’s come along and someone asks you something you don’t know, just admit it. Tell them that you don’t know. Now, there’s an art to this, you don’t have to appear completely clueless. Just tell them that you’re unsure and take their details so that you can confirm it and get back to them. And always get back to them, that bit’s important.
…lots of water. It’s your best friend. When you forget your line, take a sip. When you can’t catch your breath, take a sip. When you need to think before answering a question, take a sip. Water is the Robin to your Batman in every presentation. Oh and bottled please, none of that lukewarm tap water crap.
These tips won’t turn you into the next Ted speaker overnight, but they will help you to overcome your worries when it comes to public speaking. Another great resource is Toastmasters, if that’s your thing – and there’s probably one near your area. But remember, no-one can read your mind, you alone decide how you want to be perceived and if you don’t want your audience to know that you’re having an internal mini meltdown, then simply don’t let them know!