“I’m a hard worker but hate having to present at meetings or talk in front of lots of people. Since this is all some colleagues see of me, I feel like this is jeopardizing my reputation. Can you help?” — Aaron from Frankfort, KY
Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous, and those that are liars.” Almost everyone feels a little bit of anxiety over having to speak in front of a group of people; successful speakers have just learned and implemented strategies for working through these feelings.
Here are some tips to consider the next time you have to present in front of your colleagues:
- Practice makes perfect. Part of our public speaking fears come from being worried we’ll say something stupid or forget the points we plan to make. Take that part out of the equation by practicing what you intend to say in the days leading up to the event. Consider recording yourself with your computer or smartphone camera and watching the video to identify points of improvement.
- Forget memorizing. Never try to memorize what you plan to say. While you may hit all of your talking points, your delivery will come across as unnatural. You’ll also be easily thrown off if someone interrupts you or asks you to expound upon a certain point.
- Know your audience. Another part of our fear comes from feeling people might be bored or uninterested in what we have to say. Take some time to think about who will be in the room, what their background knowledge is and what information they’re looking for you to provide; then use these details to shape what you talk about.
- Fake it until you make it. When people are nervous, you can usually see it on their faces. Practice speaking with a smile or pleasant expression on your face. Even if you’re nervous, you’ll still present a confident exterior.
- Remember they’re on your side. The people listening to you speak want you to be successful (unless, that is, you work in a highly competitive environment where colleagues are trying to one-up each other!). While nerves can make you feel like you’re heading into battle, remember that everyone in the room is rooting for you.
If you’d like a chance to practice your public speaking skills outside of your work environment, see if there’s a Toastmasters meeting near you (they have an easy locator here). You can also check out websites like Meetup.com for groups of people who are interested in improving their speaking skills.
Readers: What tips or strategies do you find helpful when speaking in public?