Now that I think about it, the most frequently asked question that I get when I conduct training in communication (whether the program is Oral Communication, Presentation Skills, or Corporate Image) is this:
How does one overcome nervousness when conducting presentations, meetings, or speeches?
It is a valid question indeed, and one that deserves immediate answer.
My answer: one doesn’t. And we don’t advice anyone to get rid of it either.
Huwhaaat?! One may ask in protest.
Realistically speaking, one cannot totally erradicate pre-presentation jitters. The best that a person can do is to deal with it, and not be overcome by fear.
It has been said over and over that the difference between a person who is brave and isn’t is not the absence of fear. This really is true. What makes a person brave is the will to overcome, deal, and confront once fear. Surely, the brave presenter or speaker gets nervous, but he or she confronts the fear — instead of running away from the role of speaker or presenter.
All things considered, it is noteworthy that it is perfectly normal to feel nervous or to have the jitters before any opportunity to speak up to a client, crowd, or the camera, as long as one chooses to deal with it.
People find this hard to believe, but nervousness is something to embrace and be thankful for! Nervousness gives us the vigilance and the alertness to do our best and not be complacent. It gives us the adrenaline to make sure that we study our content and practice our delivery well. When we are complacent, the tendency is not to rehearse or prepare as much. Anxiety is actually fuel for any speaker!
Here are some tips to deal with nervousness:
- Prepare! This is your best asset, weapon, and sure-ball formula to a winning presentation. Know your topic before you present it. Make the time for it — to organize the flow of your presentation and the visuals. Anticipate the questions and objections that will be asked and know the answers beforehand. Dress up for the presentation.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
- Have the Mindset and Internalize: Realize that as a subject-matter expert, you have the knowledge and skill when it comes to your topic. Realize that your audience or listeners are sitting down with you because they would like to know more from you.
- Channel Your Fear: What greatly helps me from personal experience both as journalist and trainer is I convert my fear or nervousness into positive anger. Be angry and motivated to win your presentation. Make your battlecry: “I will win this presentation at any cost!”
- Release Nervous Energy: You can jump in place in private (I used to do this when on standby for a live report) or even shout in a room to release your nervous energy (a friend of mine does this before speaking in public).
- Find Other Stress Relievers: This could vary from one person to the other. One tip was from the movie, Maid in Manhattan. The role that Ralph Fiennes played in the movie — a politician who always had the jitters — would hold a bunch of paperclips in his hand and would press them hard when he would deliver speeches. This works. Some would use stress balls. TAKE NOTE however, and make sure that these props will not be seen by your audience when you speak in front of them.
- Look the Part: If you couldn’t remove the jitters, then make a show out of it. Project confidence as if you really do have it. Show it in the way you walk, your facial expression. You’d be surprised to find yourself relaxing once you start speaking.
- Don’t be limited by scripts: If it is an impromptu speech or presentation, then simply organize your thoughts and have a general outline of the things you wish to say — then say them in your own words. Instead of seeing presenting as giving speeches or “public speaking”, treat it as a storytelling session (but of course, do take note that in the news industry, scripts do take a premium because one cannot make errors in a news report).
- Don’t confess. Do not start your presentation by saying that you’re nervous. You will end your presnetation that way. Express your joy or pleasure in being able to present to people, and being able to even touch them with what you will say.
- Don’t fuss too much over grammar. Impeccable grammar should always be a standard. But for Filipinos, many of whom have English as a second language, what is important is not the perfect grammar, but the clarity of the message being conveyed. Prioritize on sending a clear message.
- Keep it simple, speaker. You don’t need to be verbose in order to sound and look credible. The most credible people are those who are able to provide explanations in the most simple language.
- Enjoy it! Not everyone is given the privilege to speak up everyday.
- Pray. Why not? Offer up your presentation and speech. Prayer gives perspective. It is a source of true inspiration.