We all feel a bit scared when we have to speak in front of large groups- or even smaller groups. Also seasoned speakers often experience pre-stage anxiety. And I know many speakers that are happy to speak on stage, but when they’re staying for a drink (and networking) afterwards, they’d rather hide behind the fern than have people speaking to them. Or feel more comfortable to speak to a full room than a hand full of people, because that comes too close.
Here are some tips to help you boost your confidence:
Often, we spend a lot of our time on crafting the presentation. The research is done, the perfect images are chosen and each slide has a perfect lay-out. But a lot of professionals stop there. The delivery does not depend on the quality of you presentation. On the contrary, the more focus is brought to that presentation, the more stress there is to say everything just as put in the presentation, and that can lead to losing spontaneity, interaction and thus effectivity of your presentation!
When you prepare not only your document but also your telling the story, you’ll feel more confident. Ask a few colleagues or imagine your audience present, and really deliver your presentation a few times. Don’t just read through it. You’ll notice that your timing can be way off - either you’re done too soon (which could be good, though if people expect a 1 hour talk and you’re done in 20 minutes, that feels a bit odd), or you take too long (which is worse; you either have to skip part of your specially crafted presentation, or go over time; which in fact is one of the most nuisances for audiences). It’s best if you stop 10 minutes before your time ends, leaving room for questions and a timely ending.
2. Focus on your audience
It’s not about you. Sorry, the people in your audience are mostly concerned with themselves. How is your talk affecting them, what can they take home and implement or change? A lot of speakers are in a sort of sending-mode, and deliver the same speech regardless of who is in the room. It is so much stronger if you take time to really dive into your audience. Change your examples and stories accordingly, so they feel addressed.
Also for your preparation - don’t focus on your fears and possible mistakes. Focus on your audience. Who are they? What do they want? Maybe they are a bit scared as well, not knowing what is going to happen. How can you facilitate them? By focussing on them, you’ll feel more relaxed and less engaged in your own thoughts.
3. Your Body Language
A really cool practice to do, is to imagine you are standing in front of an audience. Talk for a few minutes and then freeze, stand totally still and go with your attention from toe to top. Starting with your feet, then legs, knees, hips, arms... and notice if there is any part where there’s energy blocking. For example, your upper body is moving a lot, but your legs stand like a statue. Or there is no connection between upper and lower body. Maybe your knees are overstretched? You could tape yourself on video, to not only feel but also see what is going on (tip: imagine you’re looking at someone else).
Once you’ve found that out, try if you can find a way to loosen it up. Dancing, loosen your hips, move your feet... do that for a while and then speak again for a few minutes. Now feel again (or look at the video again) what shifted? Bring ‘your’ movement to your preparation time, next time you speak. Don’t be afraid to use the restroom for it, if you have no private moment in the room that you are speaking in. You’ll notice your stage energy is bigger and more confident than if you don’t do this!
Want to learn some practical tools that will increase your self-confidence even more?
Go to the blogs on my website, where I speak about confidence, public speaking and videos!