There are lots of ways you can make public speaking less stressful but the key to success is ensuring you're fully prepared before, during and after your presentation.
Those of us who try to go through life unnoticed will often panic at the thought of having to give a presentation.
It doesn’t matter if it’s to a small board, a book-club, or a major conference audience with hundreds of people, we simply don’t like having to get in front of a group of people and be the centre of attention.
Just being with a group is hard enough, but being put in a position to lead or instruct can send us into a panic.
Here are some useful tips for making it through your presentation smoothly.
It seems like this one’s fairly obvious, but there are aspects to planning that we often don’t think about. Sure, you know that you shouldn’t write your speech the night before, and that you shouldn’t be late, but there are plenty of other considerations you can make when you’re making your plans.
Things like knowing where to park when you arrive, where to go to sign in, and where you’re supposed to meet someone can all be thought out and arranged before you even arrive. Know what time you’re supposed to speak, and where you’re supposed to go afterwards.
If it’s a public venue or a convention, you should be able to check out all of these things ahead of time. If it’s a presentation for a board or a business, make sure you arrive early and you know the name of the person you are meeting so that you can ask any necessary questions before you begin.
Be familiar with the information
Whatever you do, don’t cram the night before. Practice. Then practice again. You want it so well-rehearsed that you don’t have to think while you’re doing it. It’s not just about your prepared speech, it’s about being able to answer any questions that your audience might have.
You can deliver a flawless speech or presentation, but not being able to respond afterwards will nail you every time. Ask a trusted colleague to evaluate your presentation, and see what questions they would ask.
This may help you locate the weak spots in your knowledge base so you can brush up on those unexpected before you arrive. Actually having confidence in your ability to handle the task at hand is the best way to project confidence.
Don’t ignore your stage fright
Accept it, then decide how you’re going to handle it. Own it. Understand what is happening to you and you’ll be better prepared to deal with your anxiety, which is simply a physiological response to your stress.
When you are able to think your way through a panic attack, you’re more likely to regain focus and talk yourself down. When you realise that excessive sweating is caused by your adrenaline response, you won’t feed your anxiety by worrying about it.
Instead, you’ll learn to read your body’s signals and respond appropriately. The odds that you will be able to overcome your fear are a lot smaller than the odds that you’ll be able to teach yourself how to cope with your fears, but only if you decide to learn how.
Introverts are great storytellers
The best way for an introvert to put together a solid presentation is to treat it like a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Think about supporting characters, introduce concepts like you would a plot-line.
Introverts tend to be readers, and often have a strong grasp on how to keep a story compelling and engaging. If you approach the project from a story-telling perspective, you’ll be able to maintain your flow better than if you try to present your information based on charts, graphs, and note-cards.
Your story will carry you, rather than you trying to remember all of the information.
Pay attention to your body
This means many things, including your stance, your breathing, and what you do with your arms. We tend to feed our anxiety when we aren’t aware of it, so being aware of your physical state is a great way to help you stay grounded and centred.
If you’re not in the habit of standing up straight for an hour, you might want to give yourself some “training” for a few days or weeks before the presentation, so that you don’t wind up with unexpected muscle pain when it comes time to speak.
Do gentle stretching to relax your muscles before you begin, and remember to breathe.
Schedule some down time
Introverts need some quiet time and space in order to recharge after a stressful or engaging activity.
Make sure that you’ve given yourself plenty of time beforehand to prepare yourself for the task ahead, and be certain that you have a clearly defined time after the presentation when you’ll be able to unwind for a bit.
Having this respite time pre-arranged will give you something to look forward to when things get a little tough.
Try and have a good time
Relax, smile, and try to enjoy the spotlight. Think about the fact that your audience, whether 5 or 50 or 500 strong, is here because they think that you have something valuable to say, and they want to hear it.
Many introverts tend to be people-pleasers, and you should focus on that – pleasing your audience.
Keep these things in mind, and you’ll do great!