Speaking in front of a crowd, from a few colleagues to an auditorium of thousands, can be daunting to anyone, no matter what their previous experience is.
Nerves are perfectly normal however they can have a detrimental impact on your confidence levels as well as causing physical symptoms like sweaty palms, increased heart rate and dry mouth. In order to tackle the butterflies that could wreak havoc on your perfectly planned presentation, you should aim to leverage them instead.
Feel Comfortable in Your Surroundings
The worst thing you could do to try and ease your nerves is to be late. Give yourself plenty of time to travel to the venue and familiarise yourself with the setup including seating arrangements, microphones, projector and screen, etc.
By arriving early you can also have a chat with a couple of people (especially helpful if it’s an audience of strangers!) before it’s your time to shine. This can make the situation less daunting as you will have a few friendly faces to look out for in the crowd.
Perfect Your Power Pose
Your posture and body behaviour has a lot to say about how you’re feeling inside. In Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, she explores the famous ‘power pose’ and how it can have a positive effect on your self-confidence.
If you don’t have time to watch Cuddy’s 20-minute talk, all you need to know is that by engaging in high power poses - think Wonder Woman’s stance, chin up, chest out, hands on hips - you’ll feel more assertive and powerful. On the flip side, if you’re feeling nervous you’ll be more inclined to default to low power poses such as hunching or crossing your arms.
Try spending a few minutes in another room or going for a bathroom break before it’s time to speak to practice the ‘power pose’ and you’ll be ready for anything!
Before you go into the boardroom, onto the stage, etc., you need to be your own hype person!
Disregard any negative thoughts and practice self-affirmation. Rather than dwelling on what could go wrong, say things like “You’re going to wow the audience” or “You’re going to be a clear and engaging speaker”. Create your own self-fulfilling prophecy by staying in a positive frame of mind.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
All it takes to make yourself happy is to fake a smile… no that’s not a lie, it’s science!
The mere act of smiling causes a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing hormones like serotonin which is associated with reducing stress. By turning that nervous frown upside down, it’ll actually make you feel better and induce happiness.
Control Your Breathing
Clear and engaging presenters focus on speaking slowly with plenty of pauses in order to give the audience time to ponder what they’ve just said. To slow your words, you must slow your breathing, otherwise, you’ll risk getting a tight chest and rushing through your speech as a result.
Try practising deep ‘belly breathing’ beforehand - if you breathe in for 8 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds to get into a repetitive, balanced rhythm.
These are just a few different techniques you can use in the lead up to your presentation in order to come across as a confident speaker. Find the ones that work for you and keep practising, the more experience you have tackling your nerves head on, the better you’ll get at managing them. Practice makes perfect!