Once your presentation is planned, you can begin to focus on presenting itself. If you're like most people, you fear public speaking. An oft-cited study claims many people fear public speaking more than death, and Mark Twain famously said, "There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and liars." Accurate or not, most people dislike public speaking. But, speaking in public is an essential skill for success in the business environment. Whether you're presenting to a large or small group, you need to address your audience confidently and clearly. In this lesson, I'll give you some tips on preparing to deliver your presentation.
To start, most people think that if they're nervous, they are poor public speakers, but this isn't the case. Even famous actors like Sir Lawrence Olivier said they experienced stage fright throughout their careers—despite the success and extensive experience, some people continue to feel panic, jitters, and sweating before performances.
One of the first things to know about public speaking anxiety is, as I've said that most people feel nervous. You're not alone. Often that alone helps reduce people's anxiety. Feeling nervous is normal.
Another thing to know is the symptoms of public speaking anxiety. If you know what to expect, it can help you prepare, or at least not feel as anxious. Can you think of some ways you experience public speaking anxiety? Many people report, blushing sweating, knocky knees. Some report the butterflies in your stomach feeling, or nausea. Other people report watery eyes, dry mouth, and difficulty putting their thoughts together. When nervous, some people ramble, and others freeze. All of these reactions, and others, are normal and common.
And, they will usually pass.
This nervousness can be used to your advantage. It can enhance vitality and allow you to express your enthusiasm for the topic. Rename your nervousness as excitement. A Harvard Business School study found that simply changing how you think about your anxiety can change how you perform. Channel your nerves into excitement. Think of your racing heartbeat or sweaty palms as signs of excitement.
Public speaking and anxiety experts suggest many ways to manage your anxiety.
First, throughout preparation will reduce your anxiety. All of the lessons in this course have discussed preparation so, if you follow these steps, you should be well on your way to reducing your anxiety. Thorough preparation continues, though, with practice, which we'll examine in the next lesson.
Other tips to help reduce public speaking anxiety include:
Breathing—often when we're anxious, we forget to breathe. This can cause your voice to be pinched or weak sounding, and it can increase tension in your body. Before your presentation, take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and release. Repeat this breathing several times to help you calm down.
Exercise—many people hold their nerves in their bodies, and often the nervousness appears as fidgeting or repetitive movements like tapping your feet or twisting hands. Exercising early in the day can release some of this physical tension. Even simple stretching can help ease some of the nerves and help you relax.
Name the anxiety symptoms you are most likely to experience. Knowing what typically happens to you will erase some of the fear. You can say to yourself, this is normal for me, this will pass. You might want to imagine the anxiety symptoms coming over you and let them come. Close your eyes, feel the sensation, and then unimagined it, imagine it going away or leaving you. Tell yourself you are calming down.
Self-talk is incredibly important in reducing anxiety. Self-talk is what you tell yourself about your feelings, abilities, and performance. If you name the anxious feelings as excitement, you are more likely to feel excited. Tell yourself anxiety is normal and temporary. Be your own advocate and cheerleader—tell yourself you can do this—you know your information, you've practiced, you're prepared. Visualize yourself presenting confidently and calmly, with the audience responding.
Finally, pretend you're good at it. This is some of the best advice I ever received. The audience doesn't know the fears and doubts you have inside. They only see how you present yourself outside. So, pretend you're good at it and, usually, you will become good at it.
Today's task is to reflect on your public speaking anxiety. How does it manifest itself in you? Do you feel shaky or blush a lot? Do you tap your pen or pace? Whatever it is, identify it. Name it. Then, plan some ways you can manage that anxiety before your presentation.
Nervousness and anxiety can help you become an effective speaker by encouraging you to prepare and know your topic. According to one study, preparation and practice can reduce anxiety by up to 75%. So, in our next lesson, we will focus on practicing for your presentation to reduce nerves even further. See you then!