Sunday, May 11, 2008

Presentation Skills: Control Your Nervousness


One of the secrets of becoming a dynamic public speaker is to use your nervousness for energy. While some will advise strategies to reduce your nervousness, I think you can use it to your advantage.

An extra spurt of adrenaline (also known as the rush), your heart beating faster, those knots in your stomach, more rapid breathing-that's excitement, not nervousness. Redefine your physical sensations. You would feel all those things during a passionate kiss with your lover or in the middle of that holiday you've always wanted. All great performers, great actors, great athletes, and great public speakers experience nervousness, and it is one of the characteristics that helps make them great.

The times I haven't been nervous were the times I was flat and uninspiring. I'd rather be nervous. The answer lies in learning how to control the nervousness, not eliminate it. These six tips might help.

(1) Make eye contact

Making eye contact with your audience is invaluable because once you are able to look into the eyes of your listeners, you are then taking the first step in being conversational with your audience. Many people are under the mistaken belief that when they stand at the lectern, on the podium or at the boardroom table, they should be someone other than who they are. That is wrong. The person you are in your office, in your home, in a social situation or a business setting, is the person that should be giving that speech or that presentation. Don't try to be someone you're not. You are fine as you are.

Yet, inexperienced presenters, and some experienced ones, often have difficulty actually looking at their audience.

This may partly be due to nerves (If I pretend they're not there, I won't be nervous)or if staring at notes and slides, it may be a sign of inadequate preparation.

Some presenters rarely look at anyone for longer than one second, instead spending most of the time looking at the slide and talking to it. This is especially true when there are many diagrams and charts to explain. Rather than point to the information and look at the audience, the presenter points at the information on the screen and looks at it while talking.

But if we are there to talk, we should talk to someone.

For more tips, go to Control Your Nervousness on the Writing Tips page at Moore Partners.

1 comment:

Terry Gault said...

You are right, nervous energy can be a great benefit if it can be channeled correctly.

To do so, you must first fill comfortable in front of the audience:

1. Before presentations, I always suggest some basic creative visualization. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a visualization of them succeeding the way they want.
2. Slow deep breathes before a presentation are important. This may seem simple but is crucial: many times when people get in front of an audience they forget to breathe deeply and soon hyperventilate and lose track of what they were saying.
3. I personally suggest that presenters start with a personal story. Telling stories will definitely help them to feel more comfortable since they are intimately familiar with the material.

These tips should help presenters feel more comfortable in front of the audience, which should allow that nervous energy to be channeled into an energetic presentation.