Talking in front of an audience can be a daunting experience for all of us so why is it that some people seem to do so with consummate ease? I am told that I appear calm when presenting in front of an audience, I can tell you that on the inside my stomach is doing back flips. I have never yet mastered calmness!
I once witnessed a comedian give one of the funniest stand-up presentations that I have ever seen and he did so while standing in the middle of a room full of police tactical response personnel dressed in formal military attire. He was the calmest person I had seen, ever.
After having to wait for over an hour, the comedian entered the room brimming with confidence and floored everyone when he asked what WE wanted to hear, a regular routine or to throw questions at him. Now that is confidence. No one said a word because we were stunned.
I learned a lot that night, and have continued to learn with each speech, presentation, interview, or workshop that I provide. I hope that these tips will help you;
- Know your material - It's a lonely place standing in front of an audience, more lonely if you forget your material or are found wanting when asked a question. Go through your presentation just prior to your delivery so that you can warm-up your brain.
- Arrive early - This enables you to look at the venue and the people, to acclimatise to the environment. It also provides the opportunity to check the sound and presentation equipment if you are using any. On more than one occasion I have had to rush away and get something to fix a problem.
- Drink plenty of water - When we are nervous, our mouth dries as part of our fight/flight response as our digestive system stops working to provide that extra bit of energy to our body. Have at least two glasses of water 30 minutes ahead of the presentation.
- Go to the toilet - Yep, all of that water is going to make you want to go. Additionally, our nervous stomach may want to evacuate some of the waste material out of the other end, again as part of the fight/flight response.
- Check your zipper - Men, you have just been to the toilet and in your nervous state you will probably forget to zip your pants up. While in the bathroom also check your face for food, your nose for mucus, and straighten your clothing. You want people to listen to what you have to say and not be distracted.
- Take a deep breath - This is one time that you need as much oxygen as possible so suck up all that you can into your stomach and hold it for a few seconds. This slows your heart rate and allows oxygenated blood to be pumped to your brain. Only one breath though, otherwise you will get dizzy and may fall flat on your face.
- Start with confidence - I never hear the first few sentences that come out of my mouth when in front of a large audience but they must be okay because the audience hasn't laughed at me, yet. I walk into the room confidently and get straight into my presentation with a strong(ish) voice.
- Ignore your voice - To you, your voice will sound shaky. To everyone else it sounds fine. Our sensors are on high alert so you will notice every little frailty in your delivery. Ignore it.
- Laugh at your mistakes - If you make an error, make it obvious and laugh at yourself as this will encourage you to remain calm. I once spat a small piece of food from my mouth as I spoke and some of the audience noticed. I immediately said "see how exciting this presentation is, I am so excited I can't keep my food down".
- Remember who the audience is there to see - We all suffer from self-doubt and lose a bit of confidence as a result. Remind yourself that the audience is there to see you because they know how good you are and you know your material.