Public speaking is the most common fear – for many people, it’s even more terrifying than death. Even if it’s in front of a small, select audience, talking in front of others can be nerve-wracking. Elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, nervous sweat, hand wringing, and teeth clenching are some of the physical signs of pre-presentation anxiety. During a presentation, nervousness can cause you to stumble on your words, forget what you were saying, break off eye contact with the audience, and in general give a much poorer presentation that you otherwise would if you could just relax. It’s impossible to perform your best when your mind thinks you’re going to die.

But you’re not going to die. As there’s no real threat – only a perceived one – using mind over matter techniques to ease your anxiety and build up your confidence can improve your presentation performance tenfold.


Face the Facts

The first step to overcoming any fear is to acknowledge that it exists. Be nonjudgmental, honest, and sincere with yourself when you come up with a statement that best describes what you’re feeling. For example, you might say to yourself, “I’m really terrified right now that my audience won’t take me seriously. I can feel my heart racing and it’s hard to calm down.” After you’re identified it in so many words, it will be easier to meet the challenge. It’s no longer a mysterious unknown, but something you’ve been able to clearly articulate. You are now one step closer to coming up with strategies to manage your fear of public speaking, just as you would any other crisis.


Use Your Nervous Energy

The feelings of nervousness that accompany fear before giving a presentation are generated by adrenaline. Much of the time, your body’s natural adrenaline shot comes along to boost your energy and get you prepared for performance. Remind yourself that your body is doing this for a reason, and use that energy to propel yourself into the presentation you’re about to give. Your fear is malleable and can be reigned in for whatever purpose you choose. It doesn’t have to rule you; instead, you can be the master of it, transforming it into positive energy.


Focus on Your Purpose

Often we get overly nervous before a presentation we’re focusing on the wrong things: namely, ourselves. Do I look OK? Am I saying something wrong? What do they think of me? Instead, you should be focusing on your audience and how your talk can best serve them. Ask yourself questions like: Is the audience getting what they need from my presentation? What information can I give them that will be most useful? How can I phrase the information in a way they can easily understand? Make it all about your audience rather than all about you. This strategy will displace your self-obsessed fears while at the same time improving your presentation quality.


Start Off Strong

Research shows that starting a presentation off with a bang can build confidence and boost energy for the remainder of the time slot. So when you’re practicing and preparing for your presentation, spend extra time on the opening. Focus a significant portion of your time on the first third of your presentation. Having confidence and a good connection with the audience from the start will make you and your audience more forgiving of any mistakes you make later on. It’s also well-known that what people will remember most is the first and last things they hear. So having a solid conclusion that ties everything up nicely can also make your presentation more memorable and give it that extra oomph you need to feel good about it.


See Your Audience as an Ally

Your audience is there for a reason: they think you have something worthwhile to say. And you wouldn’t be there either if you didn’t. Remind yourself that your audience is on your side and they are going to learn something new from your presentation. They certainly aren’t there because they want to see you fail. Picture your audience as engaged supporters on a quest for knowledge that only you can provide. Attendees are focused on the content and what you have to offer, not on picking apart how your deliver it (only you have that problem!) So relax and join them on Team You. When you do that, everyone wins.

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Posted by Agnes Jozwiak

Agnes is the Brand & Communication Director at ClickMeeting.

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