Bernard O'Riordan, Clarity Media Trainer
So you’re about to do a television interview or give a business presentation but your stomach is queasy, your heart is racing and your mind is blank.
Before you know it, presentation panic sets in and your worst fears start to become reality. It’s hardly surprising that many Australians would rather be dead than speak in public.
There are usually just a few simple reasons why people get nervous before giving a presentation or talking to the media, aside from the fear of failure.
It could be because they’re a perfectionist (they have to get it word perfect) or they’re insecure (they worry that they’re being judged badly).
Often nerves are related to uncertainty: not being sure about the content, how the audience will react or problems that might occur.
One of the keys to overcoming nerves is to stop second-guessing yourself and realise that the presentation is not really about you – it’s about the topic.
In fact, one of the most powerful bits of advice I was given by a public speaking coach several years ago was this: “Who cares what people think of you?.”
And it’s true. When you stop obsessing about what people might be thinking about you, and instead immerse yourself in the content, there’s just no time to focus on your nerves.
That’s why it pays to know your content inside out. It’s your greatest safety net when nerves start to rear their ugly head.
The best business leaders know their material cold because they know that when they talk to a reporter, deliver a speech or make a presentation, content is everything.
Once you have identified and understood the source of your anxiety, you can start to manage and ultimately conquer your public speaking fears.
Here are a few simple tips to help you stand and deliver:
Leave Your Fears At The Door: In his book Fearless Speaking, author Gary Genard talks about getting out of your head and into your body. That starts by leaving your fears at the door (in an imaginary box) and for just 15-20 minutes, be yourself and perform with a concern in the world. It actually works.
Focus on your message: Your nerves will ease if you focus on your message and your audience, not your anxieties. Arm yourself with statistics, graphics, videos and other tools so that it's not all about you;
Know your content: If you're not familiar with your material, your nervousness will increase. Practice your presentation and revise it until you can deliver it with ease;
Stick to what you know: You're the expert, so stick to what you know and talk about your experiences. It's when you wander into unknown territory that you'll start to feel anxious;
Tell stories: One of the best ways to feel at ease, slow the pace and engage an audience is to tell stories;
Don't apologise for being nervous: In most instances your nervousness is only noticeable to you. Don't draw unnecessary attention to it, and chances are nobody will notice.