By no means, I cannot and will not say I am professional speaker, but I would venture to say that I have become a professional student of public speaking. For years, we have all been pushed in front of an audience, whether it was a “show and tell” at elementary school to a brief memorized line delivered to a crowd of classmates, teachers, parents and other loved ones. You may not have noticed it as much, but we have been practicing public speaking for quite a long time..
To this day, we may not have necessarily signed up to speak during meetings or to speak at large crowds. And most of us, even the best of us, still get nervous. Those individuals that do not seem to have fear of public speaking, have probably learned some strategies to overcome and most likely started nervous in the early years and with enough practice, have gotten used to it.
I am a self-proclaimed nervous speaker, even my genetic trait test shows I am highly likely to have fear of public speaking! My heart races, my voice quivers, my throat chokes up and I feel this warm rush within my body when speaking in public. So, when I saw the August webinar, “The day I nailed my presentation,” I knew I had to sign up to learn additional tips. Kerry Stellar, a sales trainer who has delivered numerous presentations to clients and colleagues provided insights that were worth sharing and keeping. She speaks the truth when she mentioned that you truly have to have confidence in your own abilities, that you have the 1st person experience and can relay that knowledge. “Embrace what you know and speak to it with enthusiasm,” she says. Kerry also mentioned that the audience wants you to succeed, that they are quietly rooting for you, embracing your nerves can help. I can even relate to her confession of feeling silly practicing how to wave in front of the mirror. As I listened to Kerry, I started to think about my own tips that has helped me throughout the years that I would like to share with all of you.
Here are my top tips for nailing YOUR presentation:
1. Practice Makes Perfect
I would agree with Kerry to practice as much as you can. Put intentional time to practice your presentation. Practice when you wake up, when you’re in the shower, when you’re in the car, with your dog, practice in front of your family if they are willing to listen! If the presentation is something you would need to “nail,” put the time in.
2. Memorize Your First 30 Seconds
This will help with those first few seconds! When you can recite your first paragraph without a hitch you can go on autopilot and bypass the initial “fight or flight” feeling that can set the tone of your entire presentation. During fight and flight, your body is trying to prioritize and work on getting rid of the stress, so if you memorize and go on autopilot during this time, it will allow you to breathe through it and calm yourself down.
3. Give In
Yes, “give in.” If you accept that you will be nervous, you tell your body that you acknowledge that initial feeling of fright, but that you are not really under attack by a 6 foot bear. It will eventually realize there is no danger and release your nerves.
4. Do Not Pace Back and Forth on Stage - Or For Virtual, Keep Your Hand Movements to A Minimum
Talking about bears, when you are on stage, try not to pace like a wild animal, walking back and forth. It is normal to try to move around to get that nervousness out, but it does not look good. You can pace, but pause for a longer time, get a couple of points in then you can move around again. During virtual sessions, try to limit your hand movements. Your hands may look larger in front of your laptop camera and with the virtual bandwidth, your movements may seem very choppy and it can be very distracting.
5. Body Language
For live settings, the hands can be used to convey your expertise…purposefully. Do not keep your hands behind your back or keep it on your sides like a robot. Use your hands to make a point, or create highlights. BUT do what comes naturally. Use open palm gestures to build your audience’s trust. If you are behind a lectern, show your hands.
For virtual settings, it is a little different, try to think of how you would talk to someone if you were sitting at a table together. Depending on your comfort level, you can lean in or lean back, you don’t have to face your camera squarely, but for your own sake, make sure your camera is at eye level, this will save your back and your neck. And always end your calls with a smile (when appropriate).
6. Breathing and Tone of Voice
Try talking from your stomach, instead of your throat. It will take practice, but you will find that if you speak from your diaphragm your voice will be more full bodied and you will also avoid that feeling of breathlessness. And while we are talking about the voice – try to match your tone with the emotions. If you say “I’m excited to be here…” SOUND EXCITED!
7. Presentation - Less is More
Keep it light, make it more conversational. “Death by PowerPoint” is exactly what it is, your presentation should focus on YOU and the content you are delivering, not your PowerPoint presentation. Kerry’s tips are valuable about presentations. For more tips, check out the recorded version on www.mypwh.org/Webinars
Make sure you use words to signal that you are about to close your presentation. As soon as you signal, audience will have a second wind and listen to your final words. Make sure you provide a brief recap and takeaways. Make sure they are clear –if there are any next steps, you need to outline that, if there is a call to action, make sure you distinctly state it. Most of the time I also frame my first slide to tell my audience what their top 3 takeaways, then my last slide repeats those top 3 takeaways.
One of Kerry’s recommendation is to be yourself, and I agree with that 100%. To show your authentic self during your presentations can make such an impact to those who are listening to you. When you embrace your power, you will show your authority on your subject matter, but more importantly, your comfort level will increase on stage when you “…reduce the pressure to be someone else,” as Kerry says. Follow these tips, learn from the best and nail your next presentation!
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