I am pretty shy by nature and have always dreaded public speaking! Last year, I had to make multiple presentations of my start-up in a high-stake environment, in front of different audiences of angel investors, venture capitalists and judges, and my anxiety was running in a high gear, but eventually I found a few good ways to manage my anxiety levels by using the following process:
1) Practicing in front of a small group of supportive friends for several days prior to the actual presentation. The key is that your friends are supportive in a way that will boost your confidence. They have to believe in you as a speaker who has something really important and cool to say. Your friends have to be invested in your success. No mean friends or unnecessary criticism should be dispensed. The goal is to boost your confidence, help you learn the material, so it becomes second nature, get your timing within the allotted window of time, and get comfy with the Q&A process.
I found that the more I practiced a few days prior and the more positive my interaction was with my practice audience, the more likely I was to be relaxed and deliver a quality presentation, while keeping the level of anxiety in check and even turning the anxiety into excitement about my interaction with the audience.
2) I found that being anxious can result in forgetting what you have to say, or taking too long to communicate the main points, so I have to stress the Importance of timing your presentations: Your friends will help time your practice sessions to make sure you communicate all the main points during the allotted time period.
3) Practice speaking to your audience like you are telling a cool story to your friends, standing close to your friends as you speak, making eye contact and looking at your audience and not at the screen, having an open posture, making sure your voice resonates well, especially if you have to present to a large audience.
4) Having only a few flash cards for the key messages on you, so you don’t have to look down as you speak. Looking in front of you and smiling can greatly help with confidence.
5) Getting a good night sleep, getting there early, getting in a good frame of mind, visualizing yourself speaking, avoiding caffeine, having pleasant conversations and getting some physical exercise like stretching, walking stairs, or doing push ups of the well right before you speak.
6) Trying to enjoy the moment, breathe in breath out, have fun. Really the key is to enjoy it and embrace the moment.
Thus, it’s really about getting plenty of practice, good timing, right frame of mind, and re-framing your fear as excitement. After all, you have great stuff to share!
7) If I am driving to the presentation venue by myself, I like to sing in the car right before the presentation to get used to the sound of my voice.
8) One thing I never do is record myself during practice runs, as it can produce too much anxiety, so I stick to the rule of only recording the actual presentations, so I can improve.
Now, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this conquering anxiety before the presentations. If you have successfully mastered conquering the anxiety for a presentation and dealing with the fear of public speaking, please comment and share your experience below!