It’s been years since my very first presentation. Just me, alone, in my own element standing up in front of a group of strangers, pouring out what felt like my mind, body and soul — and although the audience only consisted of 5 people… that 5, felt like 5000.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Several thoughts racing through my mind and being nervous to the point where I began fiddling with the flip-chart pen, constantly removing and replacing the lid. Up until now I didn’t really have much public speaking experience, so this here you could say, was about to be the biggest deal of my life.
The next few sentences mattered most, it was make or break for me! This moment right here, right now, was… it. Here I am, little old me, having to convince these 5 people who had no idea who I was, that what I had to say was worth the next 45 minutes of their precious time.
I know how you’re feeling as you’re about to walk on stage. Heart racing; palms sweating; legs quivering. About to successfully convince yourself that there’s still enough time to do a quick U-turn and save you, your family and entire lineage to come, the spoilt tomatoes that will be tossed at you in the next two minutes or so.
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives whether you’re pitching your business idea or a newbie school teacher about to teach your first lesson. It’s a horrible feeling and could be a real setback.
A lot of people look at me now, years down the line and think — ‘how on earth does he make it look so easy?’ But I kid you not, it hasn’t always been a breeze and there’s nothing special about me. Just like yourself, I’m human and understand that public speaking can be pretty daunting especially if you’re just starting out however, you too can succeed even if you are just a beginner… look at me, I did.
Now, to help you avoid that level of anxiety, I’ve put together 5 useful tips to get you nerve-free on your next public speaking event.
1. Research your audience: It’s always helpful when you know what to expect, so why not carry out some research beforehand to give you a better feel of the type of audience you’ll be presenting to? You can gauge the interests of your audience by browsing through your list of attendees and visiting each of their social media profiles. Doing this gives you the upper hand and although it might seem like an added task, who doesn’t love being well prepared?
2. Be Passionate not Perfect: There’s the common phrase that says ‘practice makes perfect’ but I believe that being passionate is more impactful as a speaker. Now you may be thinking ‘that’s great Andy but how do I remember all the words’. The key is to chunk your content; separate your content into small sections so that each chunk is easier to remember. After all, the content is coming from within you anyway! Trust yourself. It also helps practicing in front of people you are comfortable with and can ask for feedback. Or better still, record yourself and watch it back.
3. Give great energy: What you give is what you get. The audience feeds off of your aura so be sure to control the reception you receive by maintaining a positive mindset and attitude. Make smiling your standard gesture when on stage.
4. Maintain eye contact: If the opportunity lends itself, before you kick off your presentation, find the time to converse with members of the audience to build rapport prior to going on stage. More importantly, when on stage, maintain eye contact with your audience — and aim to connect with everyone in the audience. Show that you care. During your presentation look these people in the eye, you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll connect just by doing so and influence more people as a result.
5. Let your slides be an aid — not a crutch: You’ve heard the quote ‘death by Powerpoint’. Don’t let that be you! Having visuals is always good but relying on them to remind you of what you need to say — not so good! Powerpoint slides are there as an aid to your presentation — they should not be relied on! How do you know if they’re too much of a crutch you’re leaning on? Ask yourself; “if there was to be a technical hitch in the seminar room, could you do your whole presentation without the use of slides?” If yes — you’re using them in the right way. Know your material well because you’re the expert and understand the content of what it is you’re presenting — not because you’re reading words off a slide. This way, you’re able to bounce off of key points as and when necessary and be fluid to your audience’s needs.
Being nervous is completely normal but it’s important not to let these nerves get the best of you. Remain focused and determined following these 5 tips when preparing for your first of many public speaking events.
As always, follow me on social media and let me know how you get on with your big day!
Through speaking, I have been able to design a lifestyle and an income that would have seemed impossible when I worked for Churchill Insurance all those years ago. I now teach people all over the world what I’ve learnt from 15 years of speaking professionally.