Indeed, according to a five-year-old survey which still grabs headlines today, many people fear public speaking more than death.
Feeling some kind of nervousness before giving a presentation is perfectly normal and is probably a healthy sign. However, too much (as with most things) can be bad for the impression you give and detract from your messaging.
So, if you do have a morbid fear of talking in front of an audience, or just want to be better, here are ten simple things you can do to help improve your performance:
- Know your location – familiarise yourself with the room in which you will speak and, ideally, arrive early to try out the lectern, microphone and practise using any planned presentation aids.
- Know your audience – try and meet a few beforehand to demystify them, watch what you drink (see point 3) and remember: they want you to succeed.
- Don’t drink coffee just before you speak – it tends to constrict your vocal chords and can put you off your stride by making your voice sound different to you.
- Know your first line – opening fluently will get you into the swing of it from the start.
- Keep slides simple – if you are using slides, remember they are a reference point not your speaking text and never, ever, just read what is on the screen (it will bore both you and your audience).
- Know your stuff and never apologise – if you are uncomfortable with your material, your nervousness will increase so prepare well and don’t apologise for anything as you may well highlight an error which only you knew about and you will divert your audience’s attention from you.
- Practice, practice, practice – a famous comedian once said “my best ad lib lines are those I rehearse the most.”
- Relax and speak slowly – the guideline is three words per second (which is slower than you normally speak) and will sound odd to you, but perfectly normal to your audience.
- Accentuate the positives – turn any nervous energy into vitality and enthusiasm for your subject matter and think “how are they going to react once I’ve wowed them?”
- Leave them with your key message – don’t let someone else’s point be the final takeaway, so, after questions, close your presentation by reiterating your final point.
Enjoy your next public presentation.