The hardest part about public speaking is the worry.
There’s the worry about forgetting your lines, about whether your message will be clear, about what people will think of you, about embarrassing yourself, about getting a tough audience or facing difficult questions.
Next time you have a speech or a presentation, quash your worries with these tips that will help you become a more confident speaker:
1. Perfection is overrated (and impossible).
It is impossible to be perfect—especially these days when everyone is so time-poor at work and school.
When mistakes happen, perfectionism causes you excess stress, making it increasingly likely that you’ll make more mistakes. And so the cycle continues.
Understand that mistakes will happen. When they do, you will deal with them and then move on. (Always keep moving forward.) This attitude will make you less nervous and keep you looking and feeling confident on stage.
2. It’s not about you; it’s about the audience.
People aren’t coming to your talk because they care about you, but because they want to know how you can help them.
As you prepare your presentation, think about the audience first. Focus your talk on how they can benefit.
3. Your audience members are human, too.
Humans want connection. They want to be communicated with, not lectured at.
Approach your next presentation as you would a regular conversation: Emphasize speaking with the audience, listening to what they say, and empathizing with their concerns.
You’ll build a stronger relationship with the audience, and they’ll pay closer attention.
4. It’s not about the slides.
If your delivery sucks but your slides are great, I’ve got news for you: Your presentation sucks.
It sucks because you didn’t approach your talk with the right priorities. Instead, you spent your time perfecting a “document” for a stage event. Now you stand with your hands behind your back, looking away from the audience at your projected document and reciting bullet points.
No one wants that. You’re not a teacher reading to kindergarteners, after all.
5. There’s practice, and there’s self-constriction.
Rehearsing is a good thing, but don’t practice—and commit yourself to—specific movements.
Gestures and body language should naturally complement what you say. Thoughts, feelings and words drive visual communication, not the other way around.
6. Don’t apologize.
When you say “sorry,” you’re really saying, “Don’t be hard on me,” or, “It’s not my fault,” or, “Give me a break.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t have much time to prepare.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know this topic very well.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not good at speaking in front of audiences.”
All these things tell the audience that you don’t really care about them, yet you want them to care about you. It also tells them they’re in for a mediocre presentation.
7. Questions are good.
You’ve just run through your 15-minute presentation—one of the most terrifying experiences of your life—and now you’ve got 10 minutes in which the audience can pick you apart with difficult questions.
Fear not. In almost all cases, questions are a good thing. They affirm that people are interested in what you’ve said and that they want to find out more.
Keep an open mind, and answer as succinctly as possible.