One of the easiest ways to reduce public speaking anxiety is to strengthen your speaking skills. The fear of standing up and giving a presentation to your peers is still of the biggest anxieties that plagues the business world, but it is a simple challenge to overcome by strengthening your public speaking. In fact, with a few simple tips, you can make those butterflies and sweaty palms go away.
- Most Speakers are Just as Nervous as You Are: Have you ever wondered why some speakers look so poised during their presentations but when you perform, you feel that your nervousness is radiating to the audience. I'll give you a little clue or insight on how you are not as transparent as you think. The majority what you think others can see or detect is not visible to your audience no matter what you may perceive, it's just that you are feeling all these forms of nervousness and think that others can see your butterflies, sweaty palms, can detect when you are miss-delivering some of the content that you may have left out. The truth is that the aforementioned never show to the audience. I remember delivering my first seminar and thinking that the participants will not take me as a credible speaker/presenter because I feel nervous, after panning around the room for a while I realized that they could not detect what I was feeling which in turn reduced my inner anxious feelings giving me the confidence to feel like a seasoned presenter.
- Preparation (or lack of it) will Either Cause Anxiety or Reduce It: If you had to give a speech on yourself or even a hobby, interest or subject that you were passionate about I would venture to say you would breeze right through it comfortably.This is why organizing yourself properly before giving a presentation on an topic that you are unfamiliar with. One of the biggest causes of anxiety before a presentation is lack of preparation. In addition to knowing your material, you may also want to do some research on your audience. This will give an understanding of the type of people you will be delivering to and create a sense familiarity with your audience. For example; I gave a Time Management Seminar to group of Social Service employees for the first time. I did some investigation that gave me one clue as to the personalities and industry that I would be delivering my presentation to. Social workers tend to be heavy multitaskers that have little time to deal with many issues. I also made contact with the faciliating manager and asked a few key questions on what they were trying to achieve with through the seminar. I would then have the proper ammo to anticipate any of their current situations which gave me the confidence going in that I could handle their questions adequately.
- Avoid Memorizing Your Entire Talk: When have you had your most effective presentation? It may have been an informal one, and it was probably very effective because you did not rely on any notes. This is how you should be delivering your presentations, speeches, seminars ect. When you are tethered to your content verbatim, which I admit I have done in the past, it kills the flow and authenticity. The tendency here is to not want to leave anything out of your delivery and therefore you cling to your act of memorization, but the magic begins when you let go. You can actually have a layout in your mind that starts with an introduction, main points, and of coarse a conclusion. Believe it or not if you follow a formula everything will fall into place the speech or presentation will build upon itself. You can even come up with an acronym to help guide your through your presentation.
- Speak on Topics where You have Real World Experience: As I mentioned above the most credible sounding speeches or presentations are the ones in which you have actual experience in, not to say that you cannot relate your previous experience to similar topics or expertise. You will also be perceived as an expert. Your approach should be confident and deliberate. Also when you speak on a topic that you have had a real world experience, chances are that you will have some stories to integrate through your presentation, why are stories so effective? It is because in every story there is some portion or persona that the audience can relate to.
So to reduce your nervousness and or anxiety, realize that your peers are also nervous and you are "normal", prepare in advance, avoid memorizing your entire speech, and choose topics that you know very well. If you do this, you will deliver a great presentation. Also remember that your speeches should sound natural and credible and you should always be prepared for the unprepared.