I hate public speaking… I think 99% of people can relate to this. Not just presentation but even a heavy meeting or key conversation. I get knots in my stomach when the subject matter is not in my wheelhouse.
Public Speaking – Techniques
One technique (when possible) is to have an expert with you to either call upon in the back of the room or refer people to when I feel a question is over my head. There’s nothing worse than that 2.4-second hesitation before answering that lets everyone in the room know that I’m guessing! I find it much more humbling and respectful to refer the question out or promise to research and get back to them with the answer. Sadly 1 out of 10 people in the audience will try to stump you just to stump you because it somehow makes them feel superior to see you on the ropes. That’s another article altogether!
Don’t let them see you sweat when doing a public speaking engagement. Some people start off by admitting they are new to the job and not fully up to speed yet. I find this starts the conversation from a place of weakness and dilutes the remainder of the things that comes out of their mouths. I don’t think an apology is required, especially after all the preparations that have gone into your performance. Own what you know and embrace what you don’t know. The audience will respect that more than an apology that makes them want to run for the door for wasting their time.
Its called Acting
Another technique I find helpful is to put on a persona. For the 60 -90 minutes of the event, I put myself in the mindset of a performer. ACTING like a social person who can command a room. Its a subtle mindset shift. It helps me fight back the insecure voice in my head that says I’m gonna fail and grants myself permission to be someone else for 60-90 minutes…to emulate the best speakers I’ve seen (Ted talkers etc…). When I do this I stand taller, my voice projects further and I show confidence where I would otherwise show a bit timid.
Another technique I’ve found helpful is recording myself (audio is good, but a video is better). I did this for the first time recently and listened to myself in the commute home. It allowed me to hear myself from the recipient’s point of view and I make mental notes about the pace of my words, the clarity of my message and overall tone. For me, the biggest takeaway was realizing how much I was saying “umm”. A totally obvious rookie mistake that I was doing subconsciously and now I’m more mindful about it.
Lastly, if you have someone you trust to give you brutally honest feedback, have them sit in the audience and take notes on your performance. This serves two purposes. 1) You’ll be continuously improving your skills with objective feedback 2) You’ll feel comforted knowing that there is someone else in the room who is invested in your success, and at least 1 person not judging you for missteps because they know you’re in test-mode.