Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
Public speaking makes most people nervous, but it’s like playing a sport, learning an instrument or being in a play. It’s a physical skill that takes repetition and practice till it comes right.
And exactly as for sport and musical performance, being well prepared is the only way you’ll pull it off. If you are well practised, nerves may affect how you feel, but are less likely to affect what you do. Nervousness is an internal state. The audience doesn’t know your inner workings. If you could see yourself you’d probably find you look perfectly OK. They won’t even have noticed you were on edge.
Prepare prepare prepare….
I recommend that you rehearse your presentation many times. Then you should rehearse it and rehearse it a few more times.
TV chefs always have a backup dish, “something they prepared earlier”. Why? Because things can (I am tempted to say things WILL) go wrong which you did not anticipate, and you will handle them better if you are prepared.
You need to be familiar with your material and also with the venue. If you have planned how you’ll get up and down or on and off, if you have been able to check out the layout of the room, know where you’ll be seated and standing, what the sight lines are and how to work the AV equipment, you will feel much more confident – and that’s good! Be sure you have time to look at where you will be speaking on the day itself.
One you know your material REALLY well, some simple tips will help you stay calm. Choose whatever works for you.
Some symptoms of nervousness can be dealt with as you speak.
When something goes wrong
Symptoms of nerves may make you dry up, go blank, lose your train of thought, mess up your cues or your aids, stumble over your words or even lose the power of speech entirely. I have seen speakers faint, freeze, flee the stage to vomit, drop their notes, press the wrong button and plunge us into darkness, send the slides backwards not forwards …. to name just some of the more predictable problems.
If any of these things happens, look at the audience and smile. Smiling puts you on the same side. It makes you feel better, and in control. Audiences love a smiling speaker, and it tells them that despite the blip, you’re still in charge of things. Take a break, have a sip of water, fix the problem and restart when you’re ready. In every case I’ve seen, the audience was patient, concerned and tolerant of speakers who had to manage such a public ordeal.