You’re standing on a stage in front of one hundred people. In your hand is a microphone and there is silence. The whole audience is waiting for you to speak. Everyone’s attention is on you. Your heart starts beating faster than normal and perhaps your palms even get a bit sweaty. It’s all good. Did you know that people are more afraid of public speaking than death? Just by stepping on the stage you conquered your evolutionary instinct to flee. Now it’s to make public speaking fun. How exactly? Keep on reading to find out!
Know what you are talking about
Whether you are presenting a university project or you’re pitching your start-up idea in front of investors, knowing your subject matter is key. You’ve done all of the work already. You researched the topic, put together a presentation and showed up. Success! What people often times forget however is a crucial part of preparation – practising the speech. I know you know the topic, but when the nerves from standing in front of people kick in, you are likely to forget everything. Even your own name.
It is perfectly normal and natural to feel this way but the end goal of the presentation is to get your point across with confidence. How to become confident? Know what you are going to say. Learn it like you used to learn poems in elementary school. Word by word. That way even when the anxiety from public speaking invades your brain and you go into autopilot mode, you will know what you have to say. Let your memory do the work and enjoy the show!
Stress, stress, stress
Presentations are always a source of stress to a certain extent. But that does not mean you cannot have fun with them! A very important part of being stressed out during or even before giving a speech is how you perceive the stress. When someone asks you how you feel before the presentation, what do you say? I am feeling stressed? Nervous? Anxious? Or rather… excited? Pounding heart, sweaty palms and breathing fast is a sign of both nervousness and excitement. However, when you tell yourself you are feeling nervous, your mind focuses on the possible dangers as opposed to opportunities. When we’re feeling excited something good is coming our way. What language you choose to use (even with yourself!) has an enormous power on how we perceive the events to follow. So from now on remember: Presentations don’t make people nervous. Presentations make people excited!
Posture of a superman
Body language is what differentiates great public speakers from the rest. How people will perceive what you are saying to them is 93% in the delivery. Your words account for only 7%! So let’s do a little body check. How are you standing when you are presenting? Are both of your legs firmly on the ground with your weight equally distributed? Or are you rather uneasily moving from side to side?
Imagine superman standing tall with his chest proud and both legs firmly rooted to the ground. There could be a hurricane on the stage and with that posture you would not move the slightest bit. Good news is you don’t need to have any superpowers to deliver a good presentation (although imagining you have some will help wonders!). The trick is pretending you’re confident even though your brain is screaming at you to run off the stage. Time to do some convincing. By adopting the body language of a confident person your brain will get the message. By acting confident, your confidence levels actually skyrocket.
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OMG and what should I wear?
It is an important question! …and not just for women! As you may have already figured out, confidence is the key to any presentation’s success. While your fashion choice should be aligned with the audience style, think foremost about what you feel comfortable in. If you are presenting in front of a classroom of students, you may choose a different outfit than when you’re presenting at a business conference. If you, however, force yourself into wearing a tight suit even though you always wear T-Shirts and jeans, you will not ease your stress from giving the presentation. Try to look for a middle ground, appropriate but something you identify with.
Clothes and other accessories are actually a great opportunity to get the message across. Use them in making your presentation memorable and fun. It is little details like matching your clothes with the colours of your brand that make your presentation the one to remember. Have fun with it! It’s all part of the show.
There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of a presentation gone right. The amazing thing is: it’s all in your power to make it so! Prepare, practise the content and the physical act of presenting, dress for the occasion and be excited about it. Presenting is about showing off all of your hard work. Take advantage of it and try to make this experience enjoyable. Each presentation you do is your time to shine.