Even the most experienced public speakers get nervous before a presentation. This fear is actually quite normal, and “glossophobia,” the medical term for stage fright, makes 28.4 percent of adults either afraid or very afraid. This is in part due to human biology. When our ancestors faced a risk, it was often life-threatening and required a shot of adrenaline to survive. Unfortunately, today that “fight or flight” response still manifests itself in risky (but not deadly) situations like giving a speech. The adrenaline creates those physical symptoms that exaggerate everything you are experiencing, like shaky knees. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean you should let sweaty palms ruin a great speech! Follow these tips to rock your next presentation.
Speak from the heart
If you can, choose a topic you care about. Even if you’re assigned your subject, find ways to incorporate personal stories or anecdotes. Use simple language, and leave the jardon for something else. Your enthusiasm is your best sales tool.
If you feel yourself getting nervous before a speech, try a technique to distract yourself and “burn off’ the excess adrenaline that’s coursing through your body. You could try:
- Taking a walk/job through the building or parking lot
- Using tongue twisters
- Doing a vocal warm-up
- Speaking with your classmates or whoever is in the room to get your mind off the speech
Your anxiety might come from a fear of now knowing what to do if something goes wrong, like if you fall down or mess up a word. Instead of panicking about what could go wrong, create of plan of how to handle those situations. In the end, your goal should always be to avoid drawing attention to what went wrong. Simply keep smiling and forge ahead!
Being aware of your breath gives you control of your nerves. Do some deep breathing before and during your presentation calms your nerves, plus it adds power and strength to your voice. Before your next speech, stand with your legs apart and do five deep breaths in and out. Stretching side to side to loosen your ribs will also help you breathe better.
Practice for Performance
Running through your Power Point while sitting at your desk will only be so helpful. Create a performance environment as much as possible while you practice. Put on your planned outfit, set up your Power Point, and practice for a friend if possible. Rehearsing under performance-like pressure acclimates you to the demands of public speaking. Rehearsal transfers your words and ideas from the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher order conscious thought, to your cerebellum, which orchestrates the lightning fast motor activation needed to perform complex actions. Mark Twain said it best: ‘It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.'”
Remember, public speaking is a skill, not a talent. Everyone has to start somewhere! The more you practice, the better you’ll get. If public speaking is particularly challenging for you, take more opportunities to practice, such as speaking at a meeting for an organization, or taking a leadership position that requires speaking for a crowd. Feeling confident when you step behind a podium is a skill that will help you in any professional career.