“There are always three speeches for each one you actually gave; the one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” –Dale Carnegie
In Part 1, I asked you to step back and take a look at how you present yourself as a professional. What do people see when they “google” you? What kind of messages do you send through your written word? How do you present yourself on a daily basis at work or in the community?
If there ever was a time when presence matters, it’s when you are giving a presentation. Speaking before others is one of the biggest fears of adults. It tops the dentist, heights and for some, even death.
I recently had lunch with a colleague who has a position of great responsibility and has traveled the world for her job. She confided that she had an up-coming presentation to a gathering of the top management of her company. She described it as “two weeks of panic” as the date approached. “If I could just get rid of the nerves!” she concluded.
Getting rid of the nerves is the last thing you want to do as a presenter. Reframe your nerves as energy and put that energy to work for you. You need energy to bring life to your presence on stage, to project your voice (even if you have a microphone) and to communicate your passion for the topic.
Audiences only know what they see and hear. They need to see your commitment and that requires energy. I tell my coaching clients that it doesn’t matter how you feel, it’s how you look that counts when before an audience. If you look nervous, your audience will feel nervous for you. Uncomfortable audiences will not hear your message, they will not feel good about approving your project, buying your product or making the change you are recommending.
How can you wrangle those pesky nerves and create positive energy? Here are six strategies you can practice to get your nerves working for you:
- Practice aloud. Every presentation sounds great as we are going over it in our heads. Saying it aloud is a whole different ballgame. Your tongue can’t get tied if you are not moving it, so practice getting the words out. Don’t worry if the first couple times you go all over the place. As they say in the theatre, “bad rehearsal, good performance”. Practice aloud as many times as you can. You will most likely hear some good content get added that you didn’t anticipate saying.
- Get to the venue early…even if it’s just a floor above you or down the hall. In those quiet moments, walk around the room. Stand where you plan to stand, look around as if you were looking at people in the audience. Make the space your own.
- Make sure the technology is working. Nothing can tie you in knots like a PowerPoint with a mind of it’s own. Check your deck, practice with the remote. Decide where you are going to lay it when not using it. Do not clutch it in your hand the entire time.
- Have water accessible. Victim of dry mouth? Have a glass of water where you can easily reach for it. It’s OK to pause and take a sip during your presentation. This allows you to take a breath and gather your thoughts. Don’t say, “Sorry, I need water.” Just do it.
- Greet people as they arrive. Even if you see your audience every day. Walk over and say hello. Why? The walking and talking help you expend nervous energy. The same goes if your audience is new to you. Greeting them will break the ice. When you begin your presentation, you will have familiar faces to connect with.
- Know your first 30 seconds dead on. Research indicates that audiences form their impression of a speaker in the first 30 seconds. Know how you are going to start and deliver those words to one person. Nothing says, “I’m nervous” as your eyes flying all over the room. Project so the little old man in the last row can hear you. Strong eyes and voice say confidence.
Remember, your audience is glad it is you up there and not them. They only know what they see and hear. They will not know if you deliver three of your intended four points unless you tell them (“oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you…”). They won’t know how you really feel unless you show them (wringing hands, dancing feet). Show them how you want to be seen: confident, competent and compelling.