When you own a business, any time you speak in public you’re representing your company. That’s a lot of pressure, especially when you consider that most people are already nervous about speaking in front of people. There’s no magic cure for fear of public speaking but there are some things you can do to feel more confident, comfortable and natural in the spotlight while drawing your audience in.
Tell a relevant story
Stories are a great way to hold your audience’s attention and keep them emotionally invested in your presentation. Make sure the story is relevant to your overall topic, otherwise they’ll wonder why you spent time on it. The story can be about you personally or about someone at your company or a client—though don’t give away personal information without asking permission first.
Audiences like a personal connection with their speaker, and telling a story is a great way to not only establish credibility but to connect with the people listening to you. Be honest with your story and don’t be afraid to share tales of your own failures or adversity.
Keep the focus on you
Figures and graphics make presentations memorable but too many slides and your audience will stop focusing on what you say. Their attention will only be on the visual in front of them. Use graphics sparingly, to make a vital point or to illustrate data that’s too complex to say easily. Don’t read directly from the Powerpoint—use it as a prompt to remind you of what you wanted to say and grab the audience’s interest.
Audiences like speakers who are genuine, whether that’s in the form of being highly energized, somewhat funny, or more laid back. They can tell when speakers are trying to be something they aren’t, and changing your style will make you more uncomfortable when the spotlight is on you. If your style is laidback develop a more relaxed presentation. If you’re very comfortable improvising then make room for it when you talk. If you hate improvisation then make sure you’ve written your entire presentation ahead of time.
Know who you are and how you’re most comfortable and stay true and authentic during your presentation.
Practice, practice, practice
Okay it’s not the most ground-breaking advice, but one of the main concerns about public speaking is the worry that something will go wrong. The best way to prevent something from going wrong is to practice it as much as possible.
Write your presentation beforehand and read it out loud. First practice reading it out loud just to yourself. This will help you find any awkward phrasing or sentences that are too long. Then get your family or some friends together to hear it. Ask them for feedback about your content or your presentation. Did you speak too quickly? Look down too much? Seem uncomfortable? Use their feedback as you continue to practice.
The more familiar you are with your presentation, the more comfortable you will feel. And, because you’ll become more familiar with it as you practice you’ll spend much less time checking your notes, which will make the whole thing feel more natural.
There will always be minor glitches or unexpected snags that happen in presentations. Audiences know that and are generally very forgiving of such things. Don’t spend too much time worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong, instead focus on things going right.
If you go into each presentation feeling confident and prepared, you can handle any minor issues that might arise.