So you’ve been asked to give a presentation at work. If your immediate reaction to that request was, “Yippee! I love public speaking!” then, 1. I’m jealous and 2. I think you should still keep reading (because someone you know may find these three tips useful, and sharing is caring). Instead, if your body filled with dread and nerves, have no fear – a quick Google search turns up 9 million articles about tips for public speaking. Time to get reading… or not. Because as Sweet Brown put it best: Ain’t nobody got time for that. Let’s cut straight to the CliffsNotes version with three ways to get your head in the game and go into your presentation with more confidence and fewer reasons to be nervous.
1. Put it into perspective. Is this presentation important? Yes. Is it as big of a deal to your audience as it is to you? No. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously and not prepare, but remind yourself before you step into that room that everyone in there is likely not hanging onto your every word. And most of them won’t be thinking about your presentation a month, week or even a day later. It’s really only a big deal to you – those in the room are just living in the moment before they’re off to their next meeting. Remind yourself of the very minute glitch of time this moment is in the big picture of life. And it will be over and done with before you know it. Stop putting so much undue pressure on yourself.
2. It’s a privilege, not a punishment. Our tendency is to fear public speaking. Most of us go into a presentation with a negative perspective and mindset. But instead of dreading it, remember why you’re speaking to this audience in the first place: because someone thought you had something important to say that others needed to hear. Stop focusing so much on “why me?” and instead think, “why not me?” Several years ago, two of my senior leaders were planning to present to an audience of several hundred people. The week before, one of them had to take leave unexpectedly. I was asked to step in and present in their place. My first thought was to quickly find a reason to also take an unexpected leave of absence. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I should feel honored (not punished) that someone had enough confidence in me to be able to get up on that stage and do a great job. I stopped dreading it and instead reveled in it.Stop focusing so much on “why me?” and instead think, “why not me?”
3. Memorize your opening line. I don’t recommend memorizing presentations because one forgotten word can easily trip you up. Plus, who enjoys listening to a robot? But I always know the first thing I’m going to say once the spotlight is on me. I find it helps me get off on the right foot – with confidence – from the start. Everything else tends to flow more smoothly after that initial moment of, “Ok, here goes nothing…” has passed.
The CliffsNotes version of the CliffsNotes:
- Know what the first thing you’re going to say is so you don’t trip yourself up to start
- You’re presenting because someone knew you had something important to say – not to punish you
- Your public speaking moment is a microscopic blip on the radar of life: huge deal to you, not so much to anyone else
What do you do to calm your nerves and boost your confidence before taking the podium?