Public speaking is said to be one of our biggest fears – whether it’s saying thanks at a Christmas shin-dig, speaking at your best friend’s wedding or delivering a presentation at work. So just how do you get over it?
CEO of Presentation Studio, Emma Bannister, suffered jittering legs, sweaty palms and stuttering words when she first spoke publicly 10 years ago. As a self-confessed introvert, Emma says that over the years she’s mastered public speaking by sticking to these top 5 rules:
1. Practise makes perfect
Give yourself plenty of time in the lead-up to the event to prepare and practise your speech over and over again, out loud, not just in your head. If you leave everything to the last hurried minute, you’ll make mistakes and focus too much on the butterflies in your stomach than on what you’re actually saying. Rehearse in as many different environments as possible until you are really comfortable with what you are saying.
2. Hold back on booze
I know, I know, it’s tempting to down another shot of whiskey just to calm the jitters, but that short-term feel-good moment can quickly turn to regret. Just think, how many best mate speeches have you sat through waiting for the terrible punchline? Worse yet, any amount of booze can encourage us to drag on and on with waffle. Do yourself a favour and wait until your speech is over, then have a glass or two to celebrate.
3. Turn nerves into excitement
Why do you care about what you are talking about and why should everyone else care, too? Let your personality and passion shine! When you’re into what you are saying then it’s easy for everyone else to be into it as well. Tapping into what you’re feeling in the moment – like excitement, happiness or even sadness if it’s a cause you’re passionate about – will make you feel good, and help quell those jittery nerves.
When I first started presenting I froze. I would literally stop breathing and the oxygen stopped flowing into my brain so I had no idea where I was in my speech. It’s important to learn to breathe under stress – deep down into your stomach, not high up in your throat as you restrict your voice and your oxygen flow. If your voice starts to crack and you feel like you need water, it is actually your ‘drowning’ reflex kicking in because you are allowing your fear to take over. So if you’re struggling, take a deep breath.
When you smile, you relax. When you smile, you look like you’re enjoying yourself. People smile back and they enjoy themselves as they mirror your response. It doesn’t matter what technical difficulties you experience or if you’ve just stuffed up a big joke, above all else, the one thing you do want to be remembered for is your smile.