Public speaking is hell right? Your mouth dries up, your stomach has a whole squadron of butterflies flying around, your legs feel weak and so on. It’s awful! Well actually it’s not that bad. Really. Here are five tips to get a grip of the dread fear before a presentation.
- Practice. There is no substitute for knowing your presentation well enough so that even if you forget the exact words that you had in mind you can improvise because you have a clear idea of what it is you wish to say. Practice until you are so familiar with your presentation that you have no doubt that you will always have the words to convey your message.
- Breathe. When you become scared your body goes into fight or flight mode. Adrenaline courses through your veins so that you are ready to do battle or run like the wind. Neither is good for presentations. To get control of your body take slow deep breaths. Your body automatically responds to deep breaths by relaxing. This is because the brain is very literal. If you breathe slowly and deeply the brain assumes all is well and begins to relax the body. Breathe in and out through your nose, drawing the breath slowly in so it fills you lungs, hold for a count of two and let it out equally slowly. Repeat as often as you need but you will find that after four or five repetitions your body is much more relaxed.
- Focus on the audience. I can almost hear the response now: What? Focus on the audience? Are you crazy? They are the people I’m nervous about! Well that may be true but if you focus on giving the audience what they need, on building rapport with them and communicating in a way that reaches your whole audience you will find that you have a lot less time to worry about yourself!
- Visualisation. As part of your practice visualise yourself giving a calm and confident presentation. Make the images vivid, pay attention to how it feels, the response you get from your audience and the sights and sounds you experience. This is a form of training your brain to accept that this is the way things are. Spend time teaching your brain the response you want it to generate before and during your presentation.
- Use affirmations. Affirmations are a great tool if you use them properly. Phrases like “every day I feel better in every way” are poor affirmations. They are too vague, as I said before, your brain is very literal and needs specific instructions. You need to say something like “when I give my presentation i will feel calm and confident and I will speak with authority” Repeat this frequently in the days leading to your presentation and your brain will accept this as the truth.
Keeping calm before a presentation or any big event is all about conditioning. Condition your brain to respond the way it needs to and it will do it exactly the way you teach it. It takes a little time and conscious effort but the results are worth it!