Think about the last time you were nervous about something you had control over. Now, think about something you were confident in that you had control over. It could be a race, an exam, an event you were leading, or a speech you were giving. The major difference in your feelings was because of your preparation.
People often ask me if I get nervous before speaking engagements, be it to a large audience or workshops for high-powered executives, and my answer is always the same: “no, not if I am prepared”. In fact, the word I use to describe myself before a big engagement is excited, but that’s only if I am prepared.
Too often people miss out on fantastic opportunities because of their lack of confidence in public speaking. It could be applying for a job, giving a sales presentation, presenting at a conference, teaching a course or leading a toast at a wedding. The fear of public speaking has been well documented and is often ranked as the thing we fear the most, even before death. As you can imagine, there is much more going on for people who experience fear of public speaking than just standing in front of a group of people and talking.
Glenn Croston, the author of The Real Story of Risk, said the real fear about public speaking is based on our fear of rejection. This dates back to human evolution, as he discusses in his article published in Psychology Today, “The Thing We Fear More Than Death: Why Predators Are Responsible For Our Fear of Public Speaking”
I too have the same fear when unprepared for a speaking engagement. Being unprepared usually means I don’t know my content well or I am not confident with my speech delivery skills. I generally avoid these situations by giving talks on content and stories I know well, I know will be interesting and helpful to (most) of the audience and have practiced over and over. In other words, I was prepared.
Most times when you are asked to give a presentation, it’s because you have a body of knowledge that others don’t and they are interested in hearing it from you. You are the expert, perhaps not the leading expert in the world, but the expert on that topic among the people in the room. The expertise could be technical, scientific research or your personal experience. It doesn’t matter, because the audience wants to hear it from you.
Here is a nice list of 14 steps to prepare for your next public speaking presentation. Follow these and you will be prepared and feel more confident! To keep improving on your presentation skills, seek feedback from experienced presenters in the audience or record videos and share with them.
Increase your level of preparation by practicing their feedback before your next talk. It is important that the advice comes from presenters with experience because most audience members will give you glowing feedback as they are usually thrilled they are not the ones having to give the speech and appreciate you had the courage to get up and do it. Show your audience you care through preparation and confidence.
I heard Allen Doyle, the lead singer of Great Big Sea, once say, “I may not be the smartest person in the room but I will be the most prepared”. There is no excuse for lack of preparation!
How do you prepare for your presentations or do you wing it? Let me know in the comments below.