In complete honesty? I think anyone that is half human is going to get nervous when they have to stand up in front of others to deliver a talk or presentation, I haven’t met many people that can turn on the robotics when it comes to talking in front of a room of strangers – If you can do this, get in touch and let me know how to be like you!
The last few times I have been asked to speak at events, I have said yes with relish and then looked back at what a nightmare I found it, being a shy and retiring gal myself (yes, I really am) give me a camera and/or a live television audience any day. Don’t ask me why, I think it’s because it’s just a camera, not a hundred pairs of eyes staring into my soul within an auditorium – gulp.
I have adored the events I’ve been involved in, I just feel my speaking was shaky, not very confident and I made the usual faux pas any nervous speaker makes when kicking off their hour long talk. I want to change my attitude every time I say yes to these events, but for some reason it doesn’t always work.
I’ve recently been asked to speak at a social media event hosted by Sookio at the Cambridge Brewhouse on 29th April 2014 from 6pm. I am delighted to have been invited to join the panel of other social media addicts and am nervous and excited in equal measures. I am going to be joined by the genius minds behind the University of Cambridge’s communications team, the Digital Editor of Grazia Magazine and many other interesting social media addicts, it’s going to be fantastic.
This got me thinking about how much I love to push my own buttons, make myself do the things that scare me the most – I actually think I have got to where I am today by saying yes to the things that daunt me and taking risks where others (myself included on a bad day) might back down.
What advice would I give myself when talking at such events? Or to others who might also be worried about speaking publicly, be it at an event such as this or in front of a business networking group for 60 seconds? I am going to share my thoughts here, I hope it helps somebody who might read this to gain enough confidence to go for it, as what’s the worst that could happen?!
Smile. It will relax you and won’t make you scowl and show a scared face to an audience, people will warm to you… A smile speaks every language in the world.
Never start with “oh god, I’m so nervous….” I have done this and it sets you up for a daunting talk ahead as a result…. We all get nervous, but don’t need to draw attention to this fact.
“They” say to focus on the most interested looking person in the room, but I always manage to focus on the most disinterested person in the room and it really puts me off….my advice would be to focus on what you are saying and try to make eye contact with a handful of people, but not too many that you look as though you’re going crazy or staring out the poor guy on the front row…
It’s obvious, but practice… Don’t just write it out and think it’s all going to be ok. I can pretty much guarantee that reading it out aloud in “real time” will flag up the odd mistake or issue… You may even have gone way over your allotted time if this is a factor, so practice makes perfect…or as near to as you can handle. In fact, go one step further and record yourself…. How many times did you say “ERM…. Or ahhhh”?!… You may just be surprised how naturally these words fall out of our mouths.. Try to iron these out before your big talk.
PowerPoint presentations are great, but don’t overcrowd them…. Use a memorable image and your words will do the rest…. Keep it short, sweet and simple. And if you do use them, don’t turn to face the screen to continue your speech, your audience won’t hear you. You wouldn’t turn your back in a conversation, so keep to that rule when talking to larger groups.
Take your time if you have this luxury, don’t speak fast, pretend you are talking to a friend in a pub or in a relaxed setting. Speak clearly, with a smile, facing your audience at a normal pace, you will be onto a winning formula.
Don’t fold your arms… Keep them open to show your audience you aren’t a closed book… We all know that everybody is wise to negative body language now and this is one position that will make you look very unapproachable indeed. Plus, it’s just not very comfortable whilst stood speaking, so if you are a “fiddler”, grab a pen or prop to keep your hands busy. I usually hold a book or my ipad to make me stop fidgeting and this also helps me to glance at notes if I need them – double win!
Don’t forget, YOU are the expert/pro/”know it all”…. Your audience are there to listen to you…. Don’t ever apologise for your advice or knowledge, if you do this, you are seriously underestimating yourself my friend!
Be yourself, it’s why people are there to listen, don’t ever fake your personality or humour, it’ll be obvious and may even be cringeworthy if you’re trying to be a comedian when you’re not there to do stand up! Just, please, don’t do it, it’s public speaking suicide.
Have a glass of water to hand, but try not to drink it as you talk if you can help it. You can’t always drink elegantly whilst nervous or in the middle of a talk, so use it for a dry mouth if talking at length or go to it at the end of your presentation to show it’s time for the audience to participate and ask you questions. It’s a great prop to switch the mood and give you a break.
If the content is difficult to understand, try to simplify it for an uncertain audience and don’t forget that just because YOU know the jargon or what something stands for, it doesn’t mean everybody does, so keep it simple where necessary.
End your talk with something memorable, a witty line or a question or task to get your audience thinking. And don’t forget to give them your contact details if they want to get in touch or find you afterwards… You will beat yourself up if you don’t, trust me!
Stick around after your talk, don’t just run away. Even if just one audience member wants to chat to you afterwards, that is fantastic. It makes you more approachable to be there to chat afterwards as not everybody feels comfortable talking in front of their fellow audience with their questions. You just never know who you might meet or inspire after a good chat after your presentation, it’s a great feeling to know people want to talk about your subject matter.
Do you have to give presentations for your hobby, lifestyle or work? I’d love to hear how you tackle any issues or confidence experiences and how you make you have perfected your own presentation… So do leave a comment below with your stories, advice or tips, it’s great to hear from you all as always.