Are you nervous when speaking in public? If so, you are not alone!
For many people, speaking in public can be a frightening experience. This is true of experienced as well as novice speakers (but perhaps more so for the latter).
I have given numerous public lectures, workshops, conference presentations and I still feel nervous when I speak, especially in the first few minutes. I have however found that there are ways that I can do to overcome my stage fright.
Here are some of the things I do that can give me that extra boost of confidence and reduce my feeling of apprehension.
Start by saying things that you have said many times before. When you do this, your words will flow smoothly as you don’t have to come up with something new. If you falter and stumble for words at the start of your presentation, you might lose your self-confidence, which can affect your subsequent speech.
Direct your gaze to a group of friendly looking people in the audience or people whom you already know. These people tend to give you an affirming look and friendly smile. They are your ‘friends’; the rest of the people in the audience may look menacing (and hostile?) when you feel nervous, although they are actually nice people.
Start with a joke. Jokes can be an excellent way to break the ice, to calm your nerves and to connect with the audience. But do make sure that this is a joke that you know very well and has worked well in the past. Do note however that jokes don’t always work because they can be culturally sensitive. Jokes that are funny in one setting may have the same effect in another context. I have had my fair share of telling jokes that work well sometimes, and fall flat on my face at other times.
Rehearse Rehearse Rehearse. Do this a few days before and do this again a couple of time just before your presentation. If you can do your presentation without looking at your slides or notes, then you know that you have done the rehearsal right. The advantage of repeated rehearsals is obvious: during your presentation you can focus more on your audience than on the contents of your talk. This way you can deliver your talk more effectively; you can slow down and provide more examples when you feel the audience is lost; you can skip things or speed up your presentation when they look bored.
As you gain more public speaking experience, you will discover small tricks and strategies that work best for different audiences, Like they say, experience is the teacher of all things.
I hope you find the tips above useful when you speak in front of a group of people, when you teach your first lesson, when you give a class presentation and when you give your first conference presentation.