With these seven moves and a little practice, you’ll come across as cool, calm and collected.
If you’d prefer to do just about anything rather than speak in front of a crowd, here are seven tried-and-true tips to calm your nerves and project confidence – whether you feel it or not. As the saying goes, fake it ’til you make it.
Seasoned public speakers often begin with a joke to grab the audience’s attention. When you sense that the audience is engaged with what you’re saying, you naturally start to relax. That allows you to appear more confident and in control of the situation. If you’re not comfortable with a joke, begin with a short video or compelling story.
You may think that public speaking comes more naturally to some people than others, and you might be right. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your skills. Just as you would train for a race, preparation and practice are essential to a good presentation. Know your topic so well that you can’t possibly get derailed mid-speech.
When the stakes are high, so is your anxiety. Instead, pretend like you’re chatting with someone at a dinner party. It’s okay to interact with people in the audience who are nodding or otherwise showing interest. Make eye contact and smile at individuals just as you would when talking with someone face to face.
As the speaker, you are the subject matter expert, which means you’re passionate about the topic. Share your enthusiasm and excitement with the people in the audience. That will mask any jitters or anxiety.
You have something important to share, so talk slowly and project your voice. Your listeners could interpret talking fast as a form of nervousness, and they’d probably be right. An occasional pause will also make you sound more thoughtful and in control. And while you’re at it, avoid filler words such as “like” and “um.”
Use your head, arms and hands to vary your gestures throughout the presentation. Small, restrained gestures convey authority and confidence, and help draw attention to your message. It’s okay to walk around and move closer to the audience for better engagement. When you want to make several points, it helps to physically move a few steps and relocate for each one.
The best way to appear confident and in control is to stand up straight, with your head and chin up and your feet positioned in an open, wide stance about a foot apart. Keep your hands out of your pockets and use them to gesture when appropriate, preferably with palms up. Above all, smile. You want the audience to like you.
To prep for your next speaking gig:
Sources: huffpost.com; psychologytoday.com; inc.com; businesscollective.com; businessinsider.com; liveboldandbloom.com; blog.hubspot.com; ragan.com; rocketmatter.com