Getting over stage fright: a key to making a presentation great

John Sherman

Have you ever attended a conference, symposium, or some other business event where the guest speaker captivated the entire audience from the first word they spoke? Some people have a natural gift when it comes to giving presentations. However, others struggle to some degree. If you fall in the latter category, you can learn how to get over stage fright to make every speech incredible.

If your career’s success depends on you communicating ideas in a clear and compelling way, it’s essential that you overcome your fear of public speaking. People in businesses of all sizes and industries give presentations on a consistent basis. As an excellent speaker, you can promote ideas, grow your business, encourage people to take specific actions, and advance your career.

4 distinct dynamics

  1. Physiology – When someone feels threatened, the autonomic nervous system automatically responds by making it difficult, if not impossible, to perform comfortably.
  2. Thoughts – Has someone ever said to you, “You’re overthinking things?” That’s what happens to some people when speaking to an audience. They begin to question their abilities, causing them to feel inadequate as a speaker. The outcome is a poor performance.
  3. Situations – Certain situations also have an impact on public speaking. For instance, if you have little experience, give a presentation to an audience consisting of high-ranking members of a corporation or industry experts, plan to share new ideas, or ask the guests to complete an evaluation of your speech, there’s an excellent chance you’ll feel more intimidated and scared.
  4. Skill Set – Having excellent skills in the subject of the presentation will make you feel confident and in control. On the other hand, if you plan to address a topic that you know little about, you might begin to feel fear creep up before, during, and even after the speech.

Common mistakes and easy fixes

Poor engagement

Teleprompter reading

The best way to add value to your presentation is by telling a story about a topic you believe in and understand. If necessary, you can make a copy of any PowerPoint slides to have in front of you or use a laptop that no one sees.

Overly designed slides

A lot of speakers use PowerPoint as part of their presentation. Unfortunately, they make the mistake of creating slides with too many colors, fancy fonts, graphics, and animations, which distract from the message. With an exaggerated design, the audience will focus more on trying to decipher the slides than on the topic itself.

Lack of personalization

Guests who listen to a dry and dull presentation hear, “Blah, blah, blah,” especially when it includes a significant amount of mathematical or technical data. For those types of presentations, humor is an excellent way to lighten the mood. For instance, if you use a long technical word, look at the audience and say something like, “I know, I don’t know what it means either,” followed by explaining it.

When you put your heart into giving a presentation, wonderful things happen. However, if you don’t believe in yourself, the company you work for, or the product or service it offers, you’ll never persuade anyone in the audience to believe, too.

Not rehearsing

A small number of people can talk to a large audience and roll off information without ever rehearsing. However, the majority does not spend time going over and over their presentation before the event. Rehearsing is not about learning every word of your speech verbatim but instead becoming comfortable with the subject matter and the way you tell a story.

Not smiling

Not smiling while giving a presentation makes attendees feel uncomfortable, which causes them to disengage. Not only will you feel more confident speaking to people when smiling, but you’ll also put the entire room at ease. During your rehearsal time, make it a point to focus on smiling.

Ill-prepared for the unexpected

Every person who speaks before a group hopes everything goes according to plan. Often, it does, but not always. Being ill-prepared for the unexpected is another common mistake that public speakers made.

As Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.” If something goes wrong during your presentation, don’t let it frazzle you. Instead, make light of it and learn from it to avoid the same situation the next time you speak before a group of people.

Even the 75 percent of people who don’t struggle with the fear of giving presentations experience some level of anxiety. Especially when standing in front of strangers, that sensation is normal. Therefore, don’t beat yourself up if you find it hard to speak at a business event. Whether you have only slight stress or a bona fide fear of speaking, you can turn things around by knowing how and acting accordingly.

Unveiling the professional speaker inside

Are you ready to take control of your career success? The following strategies will help you do just that. Although it takes time to hone presentation skills, as you apply these lessons, you’ll quickly feel more confident. As a result, you will deliver killer speeches.

Know your story

For you to give a compelling presentation, you must have extensive knowledge of the topic. Conceptualization and framing are the two most critical parts of preparing to give a speech. Rather than a “speech,” tell a story.

When giving a presentation, use real-life scenarios, metaphors, and narratives. The goal is to take the audience on a journey. It’s also vital that you develop a strategy for starting the story and ending it. An excellent way to do that is to learn as much as you can about the audience and their knowledge of the topic.

Ultimately, you want to quickly introduce the subject, explain why you’re passionate about it, and then convince the attendees why they need it, as well. Instead of trying to cover every detail, give the guests specific examples. That way, you don’t lose their interest.

You want to take advantage of the intelligence of the attendees by allowing them to draw their own conclusions. For instance, you could present a specific problem, followed by describing methods of identifying a solution. As you go through the process, the audience will have an “aha” moment that immediately shifts their perspective in a way they’ll never forget.

Devise a plan for delivery

With framing complete, you can move on to planning your delivery. As mentioned earlier, avoid a teleprompter at all costs. Along with that, never follow bullet points written on cards. Instead, learn your story, so you can present in a personalized way that resonates with the audience.

You want to speak from the passion you feel and the knowledge you have of the topic, so it draws people in. Speaking naturally is a far more convincing method. Look at the motivational speeches given by Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he inspires others through his storytelling and humor.

Nick doesn’t use a screen, teleprompter, or notes. Instead, he talks to his audience as though they’ve all been friends for years. Even if you give a sales and marketing presentation, don’t waste your time learning your speech word by word. All you need to do is believe in the product or service and tell a story honestly and naturally.

Remember, if you genuinely have a passion for the subject matter, there’s no need to memorize anything. Even if called upon to speak before a group at the last minute, you’ll have no problem. Again, it takes a little time to develop that skill, but if you focus on delivering the presentation with authenticity and meaning, you’ll succeed.

Develop your stage presence

The way you present yourself on stage will significantly impact the message and how people receive it. If you feel nervous or scared, it’ll show in your physical actions via pacing, speaking too quickly, tapping your foot, and so on. Appearing antsy on stage is a prime example of why rehearsing your speech ahead of time is so critical.

Shifting your weight or swaying from side-to-side while giving a presentation is incredibly distracting. Instead of hearing your story, the only thing the audience can focus on is what you’re doing with your body. As part of rehearsals, stand before a full-length mirror, so you can watch yourself and make corrections.

There’s nothing wrong with walking around a stage during a speech if it looks natural. If you struggle with this, the better option is to stand still behind a podium or sit on a tall chair. Hand gestures are something else to consider. You can use motion to emphasize a statement, but be careful not to overdo it.

Making eye contact with people in the audience is one of the most crucial physical acts you can do. As stated, you want people to feel as though they’ve known you for years. One choice is to look at different people in the eyes as you give a presentation, putting them at ease and helping them engage. To the attendees, it’s as though you’re talking directly to them, personalizing the speech.

If some of your nervousness rears its ugly head, laugh it off. For example, if you stumble on a sentence, instead of feeling embarrassed, you could say, “Sorry, I’m a little nervous.” Acknowledging how you feel will go a long way in helping the guests relax and connect because you’re human. Showing vulnerability is actually a powerful way to win over the audience.

Flawless multimedia

If you plan to use any technical device during your presentation, make sure you have the right equipment, hire an expert to handle it, and go through a practice run. With so much advanced technology at your fingertips, you can wow the audience — but only if everything works.

Whether using PowerPoint slides, illustrations, or photographs, you want to make a dramatic impression. Visual aids add another dimension to presentations. If you are talking about a type of machinery and how it works, create a slideshow that describes the various components and a video to show the audience how it performs.

A lot of people who give public speeches do not allow imagery to tell a part of the story. By building silence into the presentation, the product or service speaks for itself. Talk about a powerful effect.

Keep videos relatively short, preferably no longer than one to two minutes. Keep in mind that you can use several 30-second video clips throughout the presentation to support the message. However, you’ll quickly lose the attention of the audience if you show one long video. Most importantly, avoid self-promotional videos. In other words, never show a news station interviewing you, as guests will find it a huge turn-off.

Finalizing the plan

Now, it is time to put it all together. Whenever possible, give yourself four to six months to prepare. During that time, you can brush up on existing skills and learn new ones.

As an example, if you want to give a PowerPoint presentation but you haven’t used it for years, you can sign up for online training. By using a reputable Learning Management System (LMS) platform, you’ll discover courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users.

You can also complete a variety of courses developed and often taught by industry leaders on how to become a powerful presenter. With almost endless possibilities, online training is an excellent way to prepare for the presentation of a lifetime.

Along with using different mediums for learning and honing skills, take time to practice in front of family and friends. When finalizing your presentation, use a test audience of people you trust to provide honest feedback. You might even gather a few coworkers who are familiar with the topic. Instead of feeling scared, become more experienced by practicing. Another choice is to take a video of yourself. Then, honestly critique your voice, physical movements, and, of course, the story itself.

Outstanding learning opportunities

Go1, a leading LMS platform, offers an abundance of training courses that will help you become a successful presenter. You can choose a variety of topics via video, iPod, and articles. We have competitive pricing and offer superior support when needed.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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