Controlled nervousness can be an asset by getting your system keyed to work at full potential. Uncontrolled nervousness can lead to disaster. The following hints should help reduce nervousness.
Accept nervousness as normal reaction. Even experienced speakers feel some degree of anxiety. Ham (1992) notes that good speakers often say that their worst presentations were the ones they were not nervous about giving. Nervousness is a natural ego defense mechanism:
Bring along an “aid”…namely, great visuals. Having good visual aids means you are never alone in front of the audience. Great visuals take some of the pressure off you.
Reduce your dependence on notes. Get rid of notes all together, if you can. Rehearse using your slides as visual cues. You will remember things better from a visual image than from a clump of text.
Rehearse. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel.
Get acquainted with your audience. Arrive early and chat with people so you will not be speaking to a room full of strangers.
Relax prior to starting. Sit in the back of the room and take a few slow, breaths prior to starting.
Pause before you speak. When you arrive at the lectern, take a moment to arrange your notes and smile at your audience. Start with a slower pace than normal until you feel comfortable.
Develop your own style. Your own style will appear natural and be easy for you to use.
Build in “pressure-releasers.” Shift the spotlight from you to the audience: Get them to raise their hands, answer a question, or laugh at a funny anecdote. Momentary pressure releases give your system a chance to calm down.
Realize that what you see is not always what you get. The image you portray to your audience is usually better than the way you perceive yourself. Your internal nervousness is not always apparent to your audience.
Use your audience as an ally. Your audience wants you to succeed just as when you are watching a speaker you want them to do their best. Ask your audience for help if you stumble or have a problem; they know what it is like to get off track.
Reprinted with permission. © 1997 Jon K. Hooper, Effective Slide Presentations, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO
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