It’s very common to suffer from nerves when presenting or speaking in public so don’t ever think you are alone. The person at a conference who stands confidently waiting their turn to speak may just be as nervous as you. The only difference is that they probably have learnt how to manage and harness their nerves and anxiety so they look and subsequently feel more relaxed.
Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of people to help them manage their nerves and anxiety while speaking and presenting. I have worked with Graduates starting off in the workplace who were nervous presenting in front of more experienced employees right up to Senior Executives who were nervous when faced with challenging questions from Stakeholders. In this blog, I will share with you the same powerful, safe and effective tips I use with my clients. As a result of applying these tips and techniques, I guarantee that you’ll have greater success in harnessing your nerves and anxiety to deliver knockout presentations.
As they say, prevention is better than cure if you can prevent nerves and anxiety kicking in and taking over, then you’ll find it a whole lot easier to manage those nerves when they surface. So, let’s take a look at how to prevent nerves:
1. Know your material inside out – know your objective, your key points, know the links between your slides if you are using a slide deck. Don’t leave it to chance that you’ll remember everything on the day – knowing your material and your Running Order will ensure you deliver a fluent and polished presentation.
When I work with people who forget what they are going to say due to being so nervous, I get them to present a section of the presentation over and over again until they are so familiar with the material that they no longer forget what they are going to say – it works every time!
2. Practise, practise, practise – I don’t believe there is such a thing as over-rehearsing. Take a professional singer or band for example, they sing and perform the same songs over and over again however, each time they perform they don’t sound jaded or bored. The same applies to your presentation or communication, practise will make perfect!
3. Record yourself on camera and review and critique – listen to how you sound and practise sounding and looking more assertive and authoritative (not bossy)
4. Warm up your:
I) Voice – don’t wait ‘til you stand in front of someone or a group to start speaking or presenting. Prior to speaking or presenting, talk out loud for 3 – 5 mins working though the vowels a, e, i, o and u. If you are speaking at a conference or a meeting, chat to other people to warm up your voice – this also helps you to get to know the people before you start and can then make speaking less daunting
II) Your mental state – close your eyes and visualise yourself presenting or speaking confidently from the start of your presentation or speech to the end. Believe that you will be a success!
III) Your body – you don’t want to feel and move stiffly and awkwardly when standing up in front of people so warm up your body by doing lunges, swinging your arms like windmills and twisting clockwise and anti-clockwise at your waist. You may want to do your body warm-up in the privacy of the restroom or toilet so people don’t stare at you oddly!
5. Think about how you have managed your nerves previously. Think back on a time when you were nervous and you worked through the situation – make a note of what exactly you did from the start of the conversation or presentation right through until the end. Then apply this template to your current situation – it’s guaranteed to work!
I use this technique a lot when working with individuals as well as groups. I will ask a participant to close their eyes and think back on a time when they were very nervous and had to speak in front of others. Then I get them to tell me what they did to work through their nerves. I get various responses such as they thought that they were telling their best friend a story so they became more calm and relaxed. Others have said they thought about taking longer, deeper breaths with the result that their words stopped stumbling out of their mouths as breathing deeply calmed their nerves and anxiety. The point of the exercise is to help shift your focus to something that has worked before when managing your nerves and applying it again as it’s guaranteed to work now!
In next month’s blog, we’ll look at how to manage nerves when presenting or speaking in public.