Many years ago I stepped on a stage in front of more than 200 colleagues and senior managers. It was a high-stakes presentation for me but I was feeling quite comfortable – until I got on the stage. Well actually until I finished my introduction. And then my left knee started shaking.
I don’t usually stand behind a lectern when I present as I am only 5 ft 1 ½ inches (the ½ is important!) and you can’t create a lot of stage presence when the audience can only see you from the neck up. But on this occasion I headed stage left to hide out behind the podium while I got this knee under control.
I’d put a lot of thought into what I was going to say and who I was going to say it to. I was dressed appropriately for the occasion and I had rehearsed. In fact I had rehearsed the introduction until I was completely word perfect!
And that’s where the problem began – when I had to transition from a memorized script to my usual style of speaking to key points. Once I got into my content I was fine, the knee stopped wobbling, and I finished a presentation that received tremendous positive feedback.
No matter how much preparation you have done you may still need some tactics to make sure all goes well when you are on the stage.
Here are three techniques to control your nerves:
Take a sip of water – this will help if you have any issues with a tight throat, need to buy a couple of seconds break, or some time to think.
Shift your body weight between your feet – it stops your knees wobbling (well mine, anyway!). And think about what shoes you are going to wear!
Pace your breathing – it helps you sound measured about what you are saying and in control.
When you involve your audience in your presentation it makes the experience much more interesting for them. And it makes the delivery feel much more natural for you as the presenter.
To do this you can:
Make eye contact, smile, be animated and modify the tone of your voice.
Refer to people in the audience by name by acknowledging their achievements, expertise or referring to previous discussions you have had with them. This will keep their attention and be engaging to the people that know them.
Avoid the filler words (feel, might, maybe), jargon and as many “ummms” and “ahhhs” as you can. They are all distractions from what you are saying. And they can be distracting for you. Focus on your content – that’s what the audience is there to hear.
Practise these techniques and make your presentations the very best they can be!