Public speaking is one of the most common fears, right up there with arachnophobia (spiders), acrophobia (heights) and cynophobia (dogs). Roughly 15 million Americans have a social fear, and speaking in public ranks high on the list of their terrors, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.
Why is public speaking so terrifying? It seems easy in theory. Prepare a presentation, and present it. Yeah, right. If your high school speech class made you nervous, just imagine giving a major presentation at your first job out of college.
That’s enough to make even the most seasoned speaker nervous. Fortunately, there are some ways to neutralize your nerves.
Do your Research
The success of any presentation depends on the content. You must prove to your audience (i.e., your boss and co-workers) that you’re an expert on the subject. That can be done only through extensive research.
Make a point to read about your topic daily. Reading blogs and news articles is a great way to familiarize yourself – and gain confidence – with the topic. It also will arm you with nuggets of background knowledge that allow you to give more detailed answers if anyone has questions.
Know the Setting
It’s also important to know what kind of situation you’re walking into. Will it be a one-on-one in your boss’ office, or will you be speaking to 25 people in the conference room? Knowing what to expect is a great way to calm nerves, because you’ll be able to mentally prepare better. If possible, visit the setting with your notes and go through the presentation in your head.
You should also make a point of asking what technology you’ll have access to. There’s nothing more embarrassing than working on a presentation for two days only to realize you’ve forgotten your laptop, or that the format your presentation is in won’t play on the computer provided.
Some good questions to ask before your presentation are:
Get Rid of Jitters
Whether it’s for one person or 100 people, the most daunting part of any presentation is the actual talking. Many people show their nervousness through shaking hands, a flushed face or stammering. Or an embarrassing case of the sweats.
This is simply an abundance of nerves with nowhere to go. Luckily, there are several tricks you can do to calm yourself down.
Your hands shake because you have too much energy. A good way to get rid of the jitters is put your arms in front of you and press your hands together as hard as you can (it should look like you’re praying.) This gives your body a way to expel the extra energy, leaving your hands shake free.
When you’re stressed, your nervous system opens up your blood vessels, which gives your face a flush. You can avoid this by relaxing your body and taking deep, calming breaths. This will signal to your nervous system that you’re not in danger, and your blood vessels will return to their normal size.
Taking deep breaths and releasing tension also helps minimize stammering. Before you give a presentation, take a few minutes to yourself to sit still and focus on your breathing. When it’s time to present, you will be calm, cool and collected.
Giving presentations are nerve-wracking for many people, especially young professionals at their first job after college. Understand that you’re not alone. Almost everyone experiences speaking-related anxiety. As long as you properly prepare for your presentation, there should be no need for nerves.