Even if you are the best at what you do and you are passionate, you may lack confidence when it comes to making presentations and public speaking.
Rest assured. You are not alone. Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is widespread. Nearly 75% of professionals have this fear. It is at the top of the list of fears over that of dying and spiders.
Organise your presentation.
Pull together your thoughts and presentation materials and create a clear vision of the message you want to deliver. Write an outline, and insert visuals to illustrate your story. Keep your points to no more than three, and structure your presentation with an introduction that tells what you are going to talk about, your three points, and a closing wrap that recaps the three points you just made and their implications for future use.
Create short thoughts.
When creating your speech, think of how you talk normally. My mother always told me, “Speak slowly and look at your audience directly in the eye.” It’s simple, yet wise advice.
Keep your phrases short, and underline words that should have the added emphasis in a sentence. Use this version to practice. Insert short pauses so the audience can absorb what you just said or anticipate what you’re going to say next.
From your written-out speech, create notes or prompts to which you can refer during your presentation. I frequently use 4x6 index cards. Never read a speech verbatim or rely on a PowerPoint presentation for your text unless you want to bore the audience. Highlight the points you want to make, then talk naturally. Imagine speaking to someone one-on-one. For extremely important speeches, create two sets of notes, just in case the first set accidentally blows away with the wind or gets lost or left behind.
Practice makes perfect.
Practice your presentation aloud. If possible, record yourself with your smartphone or webcam and review for content and flow. Practice will also help you develop your thoughts more clearly so you have less tendency to stutter or stammer. Remember to keep your hands away from your face and keep your gestures at a minimum. If you think you might sweat, carry tissue or a handkerchief in your pocket.
Prepare the stage.
Arrive early and prepare the stage. Practice with all electronics (microphone, computer, projector, etc.). Check the room temperature and lighting. Put out a glass of warm water with lemon or herbal tea. The more hydrated you are, the better you will feel. Avoid drinking anything that could cause phlegm like milk or other dairy products. Stand behind the podium and give the first few lines of your speech to see how it feels.
Calm yourself, mind and body.
In the moments before you step onto the stage, find a quiet place to meditate, breathe and calm your thoughts. Envision your presentation as a success and psych yourself up. If you need energy or want to shake off excess energy, jump in place a few times and pump your arms or flap your hands just before stepping onto the stage. I often play peppy music in my car before I have to give a speech so I feel energized when I walk in the door.
Remember to breathe.
Once you arrive at the podium, take a deep breath, smile, and pause a few seconds to gather yourself before you begin speaking. This not only helps you feel more confident, but it also gives the appearance of confidence to your audience.
Speech rate speeds up when you’re nervous, and that can cause you to lose focus. Try to speak at a rate of 130-140 words per minute. Check your rate of speech on a Speed of Speech calculator or Script Timer.
Pepper your presentation with stories.
The best way to connect with your audience is through personal stories. Use stories to make a point, inspire or connect from the heart. Don’t talk about yourself if it doesn’t help the audience understand their own journey or help solve their problem. Tell your own story (or someone else’s) whenever it speaks to the audience’s challenge. I usually hook with a short powerful story that gets the audience focused on the topic, like the hook at the beginning of a movie. Opening credits come next, so after the hook, I introduce myself with just enough information to justify my credibility.
In summary, prepare carefully, practice, and most of all, have fun during your few moments in the spotlight.