Have you ever been overcome with nerves before a public speaking engagement? As a content marketer, one of the best ways to position yourself as a thought leader is to get involved in speaking engagements. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that comes easily to everyone. Most people admit that there are some nerves involved when they’re tasked with speaking in a public setting.
I have been in speech competitions since elementary school, studied public speaking in college and currently teach high school English and drama classes daily. And yet, at our awards ceremony at the end of the year, I had a ridiculous case of nerves. Being nervous may stem from a lack of preparation, but can also seize a seasoned speaker like a cold. Conference season is in full swing, so here are five tricks to counter your nerves that you can try before you present at that next content marketing conference.
1) Warm up your articulators.
Especially if you struggle with mornings, you might feel sleepy or that your brain is working faster than your mouth. If you are an independent consultant, you may not have had an actual conversation with another person before you’re up to speak! The last thing you want is to slur your consonants or trip over simple words in front of an audience. The way you come across in a presentation is just as important as the way the content in your website comes across to readers. If your tone, style and presentation aren’t well polished, your presentation doesn’t stand a good chance of appealing to your audience. Try these tricks. Repeat “The seething sea ceaseth, and thus the seething sea sufficeth us” or “Many men making much money.” Any tongue twister will help you feel awake and confident while easing those nerves.
2) Loosen up your body.
I prefer to use the rag doll warm up. Close your eyes, bend at the waist and let your upper body drape to the floor. Do not strain your muscles or lock your knees! Very slowly, roll your body back up straight. I like to think of building up my spine like a LEGO tower. Breathe deeply as you roll your shoulders back. This relaxing movement helps your body to let go of those nerves and your mind to regain calmness. If you experience shaking in your hands, try using a stress ball for about five to ten minutes leading up to your big moment. This movement will loosen up your hands so shaking won’t be noticeable. If you want to really grab the attention of your audience, you need to appear confident. Just like the content on your website, the content in your speech won’t appear credible if it isn’t presented with confidence.
3) Double space your outline.
Although this seems simple, many people experience nervousness when they lose their place in their notes and forget what point they were going to make next. Double-spacing your notes allows you to find your place more easily. This practice is akin to adding headers in the body of an article. It provides a time for pause, and it allows the reader to focus and keep track of what is important in the article. In relationship to your presentation, this allows you know when to shift focus, gives you time to breathe and helps you keep on track. Give yourself every chance for success! If you can’t find your place, pause until you find it. Three seconds of silence is better than empty verbal clutter like “um” or “so, yeah.”
4) Know your opening line.
Whether you are going straight into your first point or beginning with an entertaining anecdote, knowing your opener will give you the confidence to begin strong and grab the attention and respect of your audience. This is like the headline of a blog article. Your opening line will need to be flawless and attention grabbing. If you pull them in with your opener, you will have their attention throughout the presentation. If you have a boring headline, it’s likely that readers won’t scroll down to read more. The same goes for your presentation. If you don’t captivate your audience up front, they will be busy sending emails on their mobile device, or, worse yet, trying to find an opportune moment to sneak out the back door and find out what other presenters are speaking.
5) Know your closing line.
Nothing is worse than a rambler. Everyone knows when a speaker is fumbling through the last five minutes of a meeting trying to close it sensibly. This awkwardness can be omitted altogether by knowing how to restate your points and dismiss on a high note. Do not leave your audience with an uncomfortable last impression. And make sure that you let them know how they can reach you afterward. Provide them with your website URL, your email address, your Twitter handle and any other contact info that can make it easier for them to reach out to you to learn more.
With these tips, you can prepare and execute a successful conference presentation while staying in complete control of your nerves. Don’t forget to smile! We’d love to hear what other tricks you use to get your mind straight before a big presentation.
Sarah Munne – Content Writer