One of the biggest concerns people have when speaking in public is that famous feeling of stage fright: stress, nerves, butterflies in your stomach. It can be even more nerve-wracking when giving a professional presentation to your boss and colleagues.
The first thing you need to remember is that those nerves are good. Nerves are a sign of energy, and energy gives us the power to make our audience listen to us.
It's impossible to eliminate stress, but you can use it to your advantage. Reuse the energy in your body. Tell yourself that your heart is racing because you have something important to say.
There are a few ways to effectively manage stress before a presentation. If you can, take a couple of minutes and find a private area. Stretch your body out and warm up and fine tune your vocal chords, and you’ll feel ready to go.
Just before getting on stage or entering the room, mentally repeat your first sentence. This will reassure you that you haven’t forgotten anything. Once you’ve said your first sentence aloud, you’ll be able to carry on with the rest of your talk.
Another very common stress symptom is dry mouth, which can interfere with elocution. Have a drink of water before starting. If possible, keep a bottle or glass of water close by in case you need to rehydrate during the presentation.
Similarly, stress can alter our ability to articulate well. To remedy this, do this simple exercise: Place your tongue between your upper and lower teeth like so; Close your teeth firmly over your tongue (but don’t bite down too hard). While keeping your tongue between your teeth, say the first few sentences of your talk out loud; Release your tongue and speak normally. Your elocution should be much clearer. This exercise forces you to articulate well. By doing it just before your presentation you will train yourself to speak smoothly without stumbling.
Walking across the stage, centring your posture, managing your gestures and using the W method to look at your audience are techniques that allow you to occupy and to take charge of your space, helping you feel more confident and in control.
Remember to make yourself heard and understood. Sometimes you won’t have the aid of a microphone. You need to speak loudly, clearly, and articulate as much as possible. Keep in mind that the rhythm of your speech should be sustained but not too fast, and that certain words should be marked and emphasised. Silence can also be your friend. Adding small silences between certain sentences will help you to keep the audience’s attention for much longer.
However with all the preparation in the world, sometimes there can be unexpected problems. Memory lapses is one of the most common occurrences during professional presentations. Memory lapses don’t have to necessarily be something serious, as they can often be unnoticeable. The audience doesn’t necessarily pick up on a three second pause being a memory lapse. So, if you do go blank, take a few seconds and take a breath for the time it takes to get back on track. Be aware that even if the memory lapse lasts for longer, the audience won’t turn against you. They’re not waiting for you to trip up. They’re human, just like you.
The top tips to take away from this section are: You are there for a reason because you have something important to say. Be succinct. Speak loudly and clearly; articulate. Look at your audience. And respect the time limit. And most importantly, nobody is hoping or expecting you to fail; have faith in yourself and know that YOU are the right person for the job.
In this lesson, you'll learn:
- how to manage stress and nerves when giving a presentation
- the benefits of elocution and articulation exercises
- how to stay calm if you make a mistake during a presentation