There’s two types of people in this world. People who are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, and people who aren’t. Some people enjoy getting up in front of a large group of people, and other people dread it. My twin sister, Nicole, is the latter.
I’ll never forget it. We were in our high school Honors English class, and the assignment was to recite a monologue from a Shakespearean play. Alphabetically, Megan comes before Nicole, so I went before my beloved twin. I recited my speech no problem, because I enjoy speaking in front of a large group. We’ll just say I’m a big ham.
For my sister, it was a different story. She walked over to the podium, and froze. You could almost see the beads of sweat forming on her forehead. She then got visibly upset, almost to the point of tears, rushed through her speech, and quickly sat down. It was pretty obvious that Nicole hated this.
This type of reaction is normal amongst people who do not like to be the center of attention. But when you’re a leader, it comes as part of the territory.
So for those of you who hate public speaking as much as my sister, here’s a few tips to make the experience less painful.
Instead of stressing out about giving a presentation in front of a large group, turn that negative energy into a positive. How do you do this?
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before. I know this can be hard with that nervous energy you’ve got brewing inside of you, but trust me. This works. Start your bedtime routine an hour or so earlier, unplug from your devices, and relax.
- Eat a healthy meal beforehand. Any personal trainer will tell you, food fuels your performance. Eat a healthy and hearty meal before your speech. You’ll stay full and focused throughout the presentation. And you’ll feel a lot better than if you ate a greasy cheeseburger.
- Don’t read your presentation, know it. A mistake a lot of speakers make it relying too much on their powerpoint. Know what points you are going to make, and where each one is in your presentation. Use a notecard if you have to, but don’t turn around too much to see what’s in the powerpoint. Know what points you’re trying to make. Then, recite them to the audience. Talk to them, not the back wall.
- Have a back-up plan. Nothing is more upsetting than when things don’t go as planned. If you can’t prevent it, have that back-up plan ready. If possible, send your presentation to someone at the venue ahead of time, or make sure you have a backup copy on a flash drive. (Bonus points if you do both!)
Don’t forget to sure all electrical equipment you’re going to use is working. You want the audience to hear as well as see you, so make sure your mic is working properly. That should help you avoid having technical difficulties come showtime. If the equipment isn’t working, the show must go on. Speak loud enough for everyone to hear you, and don’t stress out about it.
Remember, bad things are going to happen sometimes, but that’s why you should always have a plan B.
Less is more
Speaking of having a presentation prepared, remember that less is more. “If you are doing Powerpoint, don’t just have slides crammed with text. Limit slides to a couple of bullet points, graphs, or photos that reinforce what you are saying,” says John Z. Wetzmore of Pedestrians.Org.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s true; practice does make perfect. Try to go through your presentation at least once a night for the week before you give your speech. The more you run through it in your mirror, or in front of a family member or friend, the more confident you will feel in front of the crowd.
Dress The Part
If you look good, you’ll feel good. That’s why you feel like a million bucks when you get a great new hair cut or cool outfit. So say it with me now: look good, feel good.
Pick out your best outfit, and work it like Beyonce. When you look the part, it will be an instant boost to your self-esteem. Then you’ll be able to get down with your bad self!
And this is where you’ll thank me for telling you to sleep well before your presentation. So if you didn’t hear me before, get your forty winks! You don’t want to look or feel tired in front of your audience. Be awake, alert, and ready to knock their socks off.
Engage Your Audience
Don’t talk at the crowd, have a conversation with them. One of the biggest tips I’ve found to make public speaking a lot easier is to get the audience to do most of the work for you. So get the conversation going! You can get them talking by asking them questions, and keeping them engaged with your enthusiasm and energy. This will loosen you up, and get them interested in what you have to say.
You don’t have to try to be something you aren’t. You’re up there for a reason, and that reason is you know what you’re talking about. So just be yourself. I’ll share a few tricks that have always helped me keep it real.
- RELAX. Take a deep breath, and relax. Just re-assure yourself that you’ve got this, and you’ll do great.
- Give yourself a pep-talk. Try Adam Grant’s method of convincing yourself that you’re excited to get in front of the crowd. This will help you give a more convincing performance. Try saying, “I’m excited,” or “I can do this.” Remember, you can do it!
- Don’t try to be funny. The people who hired you wanted a professional, not a stand-up comic. People feel pressured to use a joke as an icebreaker, but this isn’t something you have to do. Humor is a fickle beast, and not everyone shares the same sense of it as you. Besides, if your joke bombs, it’s going to throw you off for the rest of your presentation and make you even more nervous. Play it safe and don’t do it.
- Act the same as you would off-stage. Talk to the audience the same way you’d have a conversation with an old friend. Use the same gestures and natural, fluid body language that you would in everyday life. Don’t act nervous, even if you are. If you have to, fake it ‘til you make it.
Professional Speaker, Kim Hardy, advises, “Be completely relatable. Speak from the heart in a conversational tone. Share stories of overcoming mistakes. Allow your uniqueness to shine. Prepare, but forget being perfect.”
Don’t play hide and seek
Founder of Careeranista, Chaz Pitts-Kyser, warns speakers to get away from the podium. “Hiding yourself behind a podium makes you less engaging. Seeing that an audience is not engaged can cause even more anxiety. Let your audience see you. Walk around, if possible, to make eye contact with different people in the room. You can always walk back to the podium to look at notes.” (If you need to!)
Strike A Pose!
When all else fails, strike a “power pose.” According to Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, your body language doesn’t just affect others’ perception of us. It may also affect the way we see ourselves.
Stand tall and proud. This confident pose can “affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. It might even have an impact on our chances for success.”
Getting in front of a crowd doesn’t have to be the worst experience of your life. Just use these tips, and you’ll be a professional speaker in no time!
What are some tricks you use to make speaking in front of an audience less nerve-wracking? Leave them in the comments below!