Speaking in front of an audience can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences ever. What if you stutter or slip up? What if the audience gets bored? What if nobody cares about what you are saying? Instead of concentrating on the ‘what-ifs’, it’s time to conquer your public speaking anxiety once and for all. Here are some tactics you can employ to help you glide through a presentation or speech effortlessly.
Imagine Your Audience In Ridiculous Costumes
You may have heard the classic advice to imagine your audience in their underwear. It might sound silly but it can really help to put you at ease! See, one of the reasons people experience anxiety and nervousness towards public speaking is due to our natural fear of rejection.
The trick to overcoming this specific fear is to create an environment that makes you feel safer and accepted. To do that, you can imagine your audience in less intimidating scenarios, such as picturing them in banana costumes or goofy glasses. Try to imagine something unique during each speech or presentation — it’s pretty easy to feel relaxed in a room full of big names when they’re all hypothetically hotdog mascots.
Look Good To Feel Great
Just like how you might instantly feel more confident after putting on a sexy pair of heels, apply that same principle to your appearance when you are scheduled to deliver a speech or presentation. Aim to get a good seven to eight hours of sleep the night before to avoid looking tired or puffy, and put some thought into your hair and outfit.
Make sure you are comfortable with what you’ll be wearing and opt for a sharp-looking yet practical outfit. After all, it would be distracting for the audience to watch you tugging at a short skirt or frequently trying to adjust your blouse. As a precaution, remember to check yourself in the mirror before going out to speak in front of your audience.
Have Several Rehearsals
Practice makes perfect, so strive to practise as much as you can before the actual presentation.
Practise in front of the mirror, practise in front of your family and friends, practise in front of your cat. Just keep practising! If nobody is around to help you give feedback, you can also record yourself so that you will be able to observe your voice and body language and make improvements later on.
Master Your Material
While you are practising, consciously remind yourself to absorb all your material. You don’t have to memorise your script word for word but make sure that you know the gist of your material well enough. Unless you are required to adhere strictly to a script, you are allowed to be yourself and speak naturally (people are fond of and connect better with those who appear more ‘human’ and natural).
The thing is that anything can happen on the big day. If by a stroke of bad luck, your cue cards are misplaced or the PowerPoint slides can’t be accessed, your genuine knowledge and expertise can still sail you through the presentation.
Audience Interaction Before, During And After
Here’s another trick to help you warm up before a big speech: mingle with your audience! If you have the chance, make the effort to strike conversations with people in attendance. Introduce yourself and get to know more about who you will be speaking to. Familiar faces in the audience can help to make the environment way less intimidating and it will help you to connect with them during your presentation. It is also a wonderful way to get you warm, friendly, and relaxed.
If you aren’t able to connect with your audience face-to-face beforehand, you can consider publishing a post on social media to share your upcoming speech and what you will be contributing. Interact with your social media followers and those who comment on your post to build rapport with them.
And don’t just make a beeline for the exit after your presentation. Leave some time for questions from the audience and aim to have further interactions. At the end of the day, it is always amazing to know that you have contributed to meaningful discussions while building connections at the same time.
Calm Your Nerves
If you are feeling extra frazzled before your speech, you can try several calming techniques and mindset changes to soothe your nerves:
- Accept that nervousness is simply a feeling and it can be mitigated if you take charge
- Take slow, controlled, and deep breaths to calm your nervous system
- Picture yourself in a serene location, such as by the beach or in the park
- Stick your tongue upon the roof of your mouth to relieve tension in your face and jaw
- Use positive self-talk to boost your confidence
- Hum or sing your favourite song to get you in a joyful mood
- The simple act of smiling can stimulate feel-good vibes, so smile away!