I present to audiences all over the world. In college, I took a communications course which made me stand up and give presentations each week to the class. Most people developed very serious talks. One topic the instructor assigned was to pick a person in our life who helped us cope with the craziness of childhood, most of my peers chose their grandfather/grandmother, mother, father, etc.
I chose Batman. I kept it light, funny, and focused. I spoke about how he helped me learn to read (comics) and gave me a basic ethical structure in relation to crime. He also taught me about how to correctly throw a Bat-a-rang. I got an ‘A’ from the professor.
Rule #1 If you have to speak, be comfortable with your topic and materials.
Most people stand up and keep their topic and presentation style very formal and impersonal. That’s probably why they feel uncomfortable and usually, their presentations suck. Your presentation has to be YOU. They need to see you built it, crafted it, and are delivering it from your personality, your experiences, and your knowledge. Anything less . . . it probably won’t work.
I also took the Dale Carnegie Class (12 weeks/3 hour meetings) and had to stand up each meeting and give an impassioned speech with no notes, no Powerpoint, for a specific amount of time. It was difficult and fraught-ridden with failure.
Rule #2 Speak from your heart to capture their hearts and minds.
Emotions are tricky things to manipulate and master. Candidly, all presentations are ‘Broadway‘ — it’s partially the content, but the real discriminator is the delivery. If you REALLY believe in your topic and transfer all emotions in your talk, you'll have your audience in the palm of your hand.
When I was a young executive, my boss and I worked weeks to develop a speech he was going to give at a major tech expo (1000+ attendees). The morning of the speech, he and I were going over it, and he said, “Rich, I think YOU should do it. It would be a good opportunity for you to really broaden your experience in front of a large crowd,” I was nervous, but I did it, and I hit it out of the park.
Rule #3 Forget about screwing up, the crowd, the pressures — just do it.
This might sound flippant, but everyone I’ve coached and trained in public speaking all agree once you are up there speaking, most (if not all) your ambivalence disappears.
It’s the build-up to the event that terrifies you. You tell yourself stories, develop worst-case scenarios, and mentally watch yourself fail in front of thousands of people.
You also have to practice, practice, practice. Know your material cold. Check your timing, transitions, and ability to handle a basic set of questions.
Once you get up there, a large percentage of your jitters and shakiness evaporate and any lingering insecurity is managed by your focus on the topic and delivery.
How do you shake off your speaking insecurities?