Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

By Dana Bristol-Smith

Appeared in Presentations Magazine, April 2001

Knocking knees, butterflies (who came up with that word?) in your stomach, sweaty palms, quavering voice. We’ve all been there – some of us more than others. I’m going to share with you some of the tricks of the trade to help manage and reduce your anxiety before and during your presentation. These methods are tried and true and have helped many presenters.

How about having a conversation?

Use your mental energy to think of your next presentation as a conversation. You have conversations all day, every day! Do you get nervous before a conversation? Most conversations are non-threatening experiences, just a way for two or more people to communicate something. How is a presentation different than that? Try to think of your presentation as a conversation, just with a few more people. See if that eases your mind and nerves.

Make some new friends in the audience.

Most people are nervous in front of an audience of strangers. What would happen if you had a friend in the audience, or a group of friends? Would you feel more comfortable? Next time you have to give a presentation to a group you don’t know – do something revolutionary! Introduce yourself, shake hands, and greet as many of the audience as possible before your talk begins. That way, when you’re standing in the front of the room looking out, it is no longer a sea of strangers, but a friendly group, because you met some of the people first. You’ll want to find them in the audience and make eye contact, and it won’t be too hard, because they’ll probably be smiling at you.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes for a moment.

Imagine that you are attending a special seminar at work. How would you feel if before the seminar, the speaker took a moment to introduce herself to you? Would you be a more receptive listener to what she had to say? I bet your answer is yes!

How about smiling?

Smiling has a physiological affect on us – it helps to calm our nerves and make us feel better. It also has the added bonus of making us appear more pleasant, comfortable and happy – definite positive characteristics of a presenter. Often times, the audience will mirror the expression of the presenter. So guess what happens when you smile? You got it; your audience will be more likely to smile back at you.

Let’s review.

You’ve just learned some simple, yet effective, techniques to help reduce and manage nervousness while giving a presentation. I challenge you to try them out and see if they work for you.

Remember to:

  1. Have a conversation with your audience.
  2. Make some new friends before your presentation.
  3. SMILE! It just might prove infectious and make you feel a whole lot more at ease!
  4. Learn from every presentation you give and you’ll see that it does get easier and easier.

High Impact Presentations

As an entrepreneur, your most effective marketing tool is your communication ability. How clearly and effectively you deliver your value proposition to prospects and clients is what enables you to grow your business. If you are interested in improving your communication and presentation skills, I invite you to enroll in High Impact Presentations on February 28 – March 1, 2006. This workshop is the same program delivered by Speak for Success to Qualcomm, Invitrogen, Mission Federal Credit Union and other San Diego and national organizations.

About the Author

Dana Bristol-Smith is the founder of Speak for Success, an organization that works with companies that want their people to communicate with confidence and credibility.