Your palms are sweating, your heart is pounding and you can't remember what to say. How did you ever get yourself in this mess? How will you react when you're introduced and everyone's attention is focused on you? Are you destined to fail?
The fear of public speaking is one man's greatest fears. The fear of dying comes after the fear of public speaking, meaning most people would rather die than speak publicly. But, it doesn't have to be that way. You can reduce your fear by channeling that energy into your presentation to deliver a damn good speech.
Even the most experienced speakers get nervous, the goal is not to eliminate nervousness but to control it. So here are seven strategies to help you control the nerves.
1. Research your audience ahead of time.
Define who your target audience is and call possible members of the audience. Ask them what they are expecting from your presentation. Then prepare your presentation to meet their needs and expectations. The more you know about your audience the more confident you will be and confidence reduces nervousness.
2. Know Your Material
Nothing is worse than trying to give a presentation on a topic you don't own. This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert, but you had better know your topic when it's stage time. If you understand your audience and their needs your material will satisfy their needs and your presentation will be a hit.
3. Organize Your Presentation
Once you know your material sit down and write your speech word for word. This exercise will help you organize your thoughts, help you determine what should be eliminated and force you to think about your opening and closing.
When you have finished writing your speech use it to create an outline that contains your opening, your points and your closing. Use this outline when you practice your speech. But never memorize your speech. It will sound rehearsed and unnatural.
4. Be Prepared
Alright, you know what you're going to say and how you're going to say it. Once you know what you are going to say, you need to prepare yourself for the actual delivery. Decide what you are going to wear – make it comfortable and appropriate.
Anticipate problems and have backups and contingencies in place in case something doesn’t work, you forget something, etc;
If possible, give everything one last run through in the real environment;
Prepare responses to anticipated questions. Try to think like that one person in the front row who always tries to trip the presenter up.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
No matter how well you have prepared or how wonderful your written speech is, if you don't take the time to practice you will never be good on stage. Just like actors, you have to practice what you are going to say, which gestures you're going to use and where you're going to stand. Nothing can take the place of good ol’ fashioned practice.
So, you must set aside time to practice and practice like you were giving the speech to a live audience. If you can't imagine that gather up some friends and family and practice on them. But you have to practice.
6. Arrive Early
It is always a good idea to arrive early. By arriving early you can check out the room you will be presenting in, determine if it is arranged properly and see if the right materials have been supplied. If not, you have time to correct the situation and find the necessary materials.
Another reason for showing up early is you can meet, greet and mingle with those who will be in the audience. This will help you build a connection with them even before you give your presentation.
7. Be Still for a Moment
After your introduction and you walk out on to the stage take a moment to be still. Just stand there, see your audience, take a deep breath and begin speaking. If you have prepared properly and practiced, practiced, practiced your nervousness will disappear and you will give a great speech.
If you would like more information on speaking, giving presentations or using humor go to http://greatpublicspeaking.net
Darrell Causey has been speaking and teaching for over 27 years and enjoys coaching others to be their best.