The hardest part about public speaking is the worry.
The worry about forgetting your lines.
The worry about whether your message will be clear.
The worry about what people will think of you.
The worry about embarrassing yourself.
The worry about getting a tough audience or facing difficult questions.
Next time you have a speech or a presentation squash your worry with these 9 amazing tips that will turn you into a confident speaker.
1. Perfection is over-rated (and impossible)
Perfection-seeking is to a presentation what a hurricane is to a comb-over. A distracting disaster.
Let’s clear something up: it is impossible to be perfect. Most especially these days when everyone is so time poor at work and school.
The issue with trying to perfect is that when mistakes inevitably happen it causes you excess stress. This excess stress leads to tension that makes it more likely you’ll make more mistakes. And so the cycle continues.
Instead of trying to be perfect, reassure yourself that mistakes will happen. When those mistakes happen you will deal with them. This attitude is sure to make you less nervous and keep you looking confident on stage.
2. It’s not about the slides
If your delivery sucks but your slides are great, I’ve got news for you:
The reason you suck is that you have spent all your time perfecting a “document” for a stage event. Now that it’s time to deliver you stand with your hands behind your back, looking away from the audience at your projected document, and recite bullet points in a monotone.
Next time you’ve got a presentation to deliver think about this: Would you like to listen to a boring monotone read bullet points from nicely designed slides? No? Then think twice before focusing your preparation energy on the slides.
3. It’s not about you
It’s about the audience.
The audience are not there because they care about you. They are there because they want to know how you can help them.
When you begin preparing your presentation think about the audience first. Focus your talk on the audience and how they can benefit. If there are no clear benefits to your presentation make sure your empathy for the audience shows through in your final delivery.
The side benefit to focusing on the audience is that it makes you a more confident speaker (because you spend less time thinking about how you feel when you’re focused on the audience).
4. Just keep moving
As we’ve already discussed, mistakes are sure to happen.
When mistakes inevitably happen it’s important to deal with them quickly. It’s also important to keep moving. Don’t get hung up on a mistake. Don’t let one mistake derail your entire delivery.
Just. Move. On.
5. Questions are good
Questions are the worst, right?!
You’ve just got through your 15 minute presentation, one of the most terrifying experiences of your life, and now you’ve got 10 minutes where the audience can pick you apart with difficult questions.
Fear not! In almost all cases questions are a good thing. Questions prove that the audience are interested in what you said and want to find out more.
Whenever you’re asked a question, keep an open mind and try to answer as succinctly as possible.
6. The audience are human too
Even the worst audiences are human too.
Humans want connection. Humans want to be communicated with.
Humans don’t want to be lectured at.
Approach your next presentation the same way you approach a regular conversation: focus on speaking *with* the audience, show you are listening to what they say, show you empathize how they are feeling.
You’ll build a stronger relationship with the audience and they’ll be more likely to pay attention.
7. Don’t apologize
When you say “sorry”, what you’re really saying is “don’t be hard on me” or “it’s not my fault” or “give me a break.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t have much time to prepare.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know this topic very well.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not good at speaking in front of audiences.”
All of these things tell the audience that you don’t really care about them, but you want them to care about you. It also tells them that they’re in for a boring presentation.
8. Don’t read
It’s tempting, but don’t do it! Don’t read your slides to the audience.
First, if you need to read your slides you prepared your presentation in the wrong order and you need to read this presentation skills article.
Second, reading to the audience is only acceptable if you are a kindergarten teacher and the audience are your students. If you’re not a kindergarten teacher your audience hate you before you’re on slide number 3.
9. There’s practice and there’s stupid
Practicing your speech is a good thing.
But don’t practice how to move your body. Don’t practice your gestures.
Gestures and body language should be a natural result of what you say. Thoughts, feelings, and words drive visual communication, not the other way around.
Visual communication driving your words makes you look like an newbie actor in their first audition.
What do you think? Let’s chat in the comments below.