Reduce The Nerves!

How To Prepare For A Speaking Gig And Be Less Nervous

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How To Prepare For A Speaking Gig And Be Less Nervous

 

Are you one who gets nervous before a presentation? Whether your audience is a group of executives at your company or the local chamber of commerce, you want to show up and deliver your material with confidence.  Here are three ways to do that…

 

Are you the one with the butterflies as a speaker?

 

If so, don’t assume being nervous is bad. I actually like a bit of “nervous” in a client who’s asked to speak – tells me that the presentation has value and matters to them. And I can use that to help them prepare.

 

If you’ve done some work as a speaker,  you know that people do rotten things while you speak. So you have to do whatever you can to engage your audience. And doing so will make it all go easier.  Over time, the nervous  feeling will naturally have less of an impact as you get more comfortable.

 

It’s really common for people to get nervous before a presentation. And while there are some people who have a basic fear of speaking (rational or irrational), others simply haven’t prepared well enough, don’t know their audience and have not connected at all with those they’ll be speaking to that day.

 

Recently I needed to help a client prepare for a public speech. She was nervous.

 

Why?

 

Well, she wanted to do well. She knew expectations were high because of her position within the industry and company. She wanted to be great for this organization that asked her to speak. Awesome.

 

Here’s the advice I gave her.  I hope it helps you.

 

1. Know Your Stuff

 

If you don’t feel like an expert, it’s hard to confidently stand up and pretend that you are one. So you either have to be one or complete the research necessary to have the most knowledge on the topic, the most knowledge in a segment of the topic or a unique or interesting angle on the topic.

 

So you need to do your homework. You need to find fun facts, stimulating pictures and research as much as you can. Depending on whether you are trying to inform or persuade (the latter tends to be more engaging), you’ll need to prepare accordingly.

 

If you are worried that your argument is light or might be easy to argue with, that will create an uneasiness in you that will likely show. So don’t put off your preparation.  And, once ready with your content, practice it a lot. Not just in front of a mirror but in a similar room to the one you’ll be using well in advance of presentation day.

 

2. Test Your Ideas In Advance

 

If you know your audience or (even better) know a few people who will be there, ask them to review your presentation in advance. Talk them through your argument and get early feedback. Doing so will let you know where you are hitting important points and where you are being unclear or too vague about a point.

 

And knowing in advance that your ideas are resonating means that your known risk of not delivering compelling ideas is minimal. And that will help you step onto the stage with confidence.

 

3. Simplify Your Slides

 

This may be the biggest criticism (still) for presenters.  Either too many slides or too much on them. My advice? Use as few slides as possible and keep them as simple as possible.

 

Why? You want eyes on you 90% of the time – not on your slides. When people are reading your slides (if they can) they are not listening to you.  And if you are saying something important that’s not on your slide, that bit of data will be lost forever.

 

Instead, use your slides as a way to pace your presentation, trigger your key points and grab the attention of your audience.

 

4. Focus on helping people

 

Sometimes we put too much pressure on our presentations.  We believe that our career is at stake or our personal brands are at risk if we fail to “wow” the crowd.

 

So let me take the pressure off of you right now. A single presentation is usually not that important (there are exceptions to this of course). It is simply another impression of you that people are getting.  Or the first in-person introduction to you. And while first impressions matter and we always want to build social credibility, there’s a simple way to reduce the pressure and deliver confidently.

 

Focus on helping people.  Teach them something or convince them of something that will help them in their own lies or careers. Focus on the needs of others and your worries (ego) about being a great speaker will naturally seem less important.

 

5. Get there early

 

If you don’t know your audience, it’s easy to make assumptions about who they are, what they expect from you and how they will perceive you. So what if you got there extra early and actually spoke to a few of them? Depending on the size of the crowd and how many people you can meet, you might even see a few friendly faces in the audience when you first get up there.

 

Getting there early will relax you, allow you to work the room a bit and connect with your audience in a way that you could never do once you start speaking.

 

At South by Southwest (SXSW) a few years ago, I loved watching Gary Vee personally welcome hundreds of people into the ballroom. We all shook his hand and got a chance to say hello. As a result, everyone felt like they had a small connection to him. Not that he showed an ounce of nerves.

 

Are these ideas helpful? What ideas do you have to reduce nerves and deliver your best during a presentation?

 

If you take my advice and implement these five ideas, you will be happier, more relaxed and confident. And your audience will be more open to your pitch.

 

When you are relaxed, the crowd relaxes. They want you to succeed after all.

 

A speaker like Thom Singer is so good at relaxing their audience and working hard to bring relevant content to them in a fun and interesting way. Watch one of Thom’s videos on speaking success and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Good luck and let me know if I can help.

 

Thanks moon angel for the great photo via flickr

Tim Tyrell-Smith focuses on marketing, brand development and business strategy for emerging and established organizations. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim started his marketing career with Nestle USA and has since worked in product management on premium brands including Nestle Quik, Tree Top Apple Juice, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. He was most recently Vice President of Marketing for a private equity owned food company in Southern California. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Tim Tyrell-Smith – who has written posts on Fix, Build And Drive™.


About the Author

Tim Tyrell-Smith focuses on marketing, brand development and business strategy for emerging and established organizations. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim started his marketing career with Nestle USA and has since worked in product management on premium brands including Nestle Quik, Tree Top Apple Juice, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. He was most recently Vice President of Marketing for a private equity owned food company in Southern California. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Comments (3):

  1. Relax about being anxious! Anxiety is energy! Energy is what it takes to deliver! I’ve given my best talks when I was most anxious!

  2. Hi Carlene – thanks for your view here. Agree that productive anxiety can be an energy producer. Yes! But anxiety can also cripple your words and your energy if you are not prepared. And I think as you speak more you learn to manage that energy into something positive each time. It’s just those early few gigs that can be a little hard to handle. 🙂

  3. […] Powerpoint presentations, stand up and offer to create one of your own. Even though you might be nervous about speaking, this can be a great career […]

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