I would consider myself a confident presenter, but after a 6-week break from public speaking over the summer, I felt a little less sure of myself as I prepared to deliver my first few sessions. I found myself wondering if I was out of practice or maybe I had forgotten how to speak!
So I empathise that it can be challenging and stressful when you don’t speak or present regularly. Maybe you are asked to do this at work sometimes, and it can cause increased stress & anxiety. Public speaking is at the top of many peoples’ nightmare list but most of us have to do it at some point and in some form – be it stepping up and presenting in a meeting, relaying information to colleagues or coaching a fitness class. Preparation is key for presenting, as a performance management tool, but one of the things which will help you most is getting into your most resourceful mindset.
Here are my top 5 tips to help you to get into your best mindset for stress free speaking.
1. It may be a relief to know that you haven’t got to have all of the answers. That’s right. The real experts are learning all of the time. Be confident about what you know, but understand that you don’t have all of the answers. When you release yourself from the “know it all” mindset you can feel more relaxed and perform better.
2. People like to be involved and asked their opinion. Understand that when people challenge you, it’s often because they want attention, they want to be heard. Sometimes they are bored and maybe they don’t want to be there. Give them a little floor time whilst maintaining authority. It’s always useful to be prepared for that disruptive person in the group who wants to show off or take over. Learn how to disagree politely and don’t get into arguments. Don’t be afraid to ‘park’ or come back to questions, bat them back or open things up to the room, for example, does anyone have a different opinion?
Remember, you will always have allies in the room and also accept that not everyone will agree with you (they don’t have to). I manage situations differently depending on the the type of presenting/ workshop/ meeting I find myself in. I’m at ease with things now, but if you worry about challenges and this feels like confrontation having a plan can help you to feel more at ease and prepared for situations.
3. Take care of your posture. Your physiology will affect how you think, how you speak and also how others perceive you. Stand tall and speak clearly with confidence, if you don’t look like you believe in yourself, how do you expect others to believe in you? Research suggests that adopting a confident posture can instantly make you feel more confident and powerful. Check out Professor Amy Cuddy’s famous body language TED’s talk, and when you need to, “fake it until you make it.” Engage in lots of brain and body boosting exercises in the run up to your presentations, you might be busy but this is not the time to skip the gym.
4. Build activities in to your presentation and ask plenty of questions. This keeps people alert and engaged. It will also give you time to think and space to adapt your content and gain inspiration from your audience, whilst allowing you to be more flexible and responsive.
5. Finally, adapt a growth mindset and learn from every experience. For many people public speaking and presenting experiences are stressful and people want to forget about them as soon as they are over. This is understandable but you are missing out on an opportunity to learn and improve. After each experience ask for honest feedback and make notes which can help you the next time. Soon after the session reflect and ask yourself, “What did I learn?” I always document 3 things that went well and 3 things that didn’t go well and I make notes for future sessions. This stops me from focusing on the negatives alone and enables me to keep improving. It’s also reassuring to look back on past successes and put things in perspective if you are lacking confidence or think you have ‘forgotten’ how to speak.
Let me know if my tips help to reduce fear and anxiety. Even though research suggests that people fear public speaking more than death, be reassured that nobody has every died whilst presenting (!!)
Follow these 5 tips and learn how to enjoy it!