By Lyn Roseaman, Toastmasters International.
Many of us feel uncomfortable with presenting and public speaking. However, we also know there is no escape from giving presentations and speeches. As entrepreneurs we need to be prompting our businesses at every opportunity. So learning to change mindset and making our nerves our friend is a vital step to take. Here are some tips on how to achieve this and reap the rewards:
Face up to your excuses
Be honest – have you created emotional barriers that allow you to believe that you can’t speak in public? Try listing all your excuses. Once we know what our fears are, we’re in position to confront them head on. Interrogate them. Deconstruct them. Render them powerless and clear our head of negative thoughts. What would you say to a friend or a colleague who came up with similar excuse? You’d have something to say to them about self-belief, visualising successful outcomes or some other positive advice. Now is the time to take your own good advice
Reprogramme your brain
According to psychiatrist Steve Peters who wrote The Chimp Paradox, we can learn to manage stress positively. He talks about the Human part of our brain that works with logic and reason and the Chimp that makes snap judgments based on emotions and gut instinct. They can work independently or together. In public speaking, we need them to work together.
As public speakers who are stressed or nervous, our Chimp will always react first. To keep us safe it will go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This is normal, but it is not what you need for a strong performance and quick thinking.
A way to deal with this is to programme your brain with positive speaking associations. This reinforces a sense of safety that does not need the intervention of the Chimp. What does this mean in practice? In any public-speaking environment, arrive early. Familiarise yourself with the speaking area so that you feel comfortable. Introduce yourself to members of the audience, so you see friendly faces from the stage. Register the applause. Give yourself a pat on the back for a speech well delivered. Once you are more comfortable and your Chimp is no longer in control, your ability to reason and think on your feet will grow, while your Chimp will help bring energy and enthusiasm to your speech.
We all make mistakes, so as a perfectionist, failure is waiting around every corner.
The audience is unlikely to know if you make a mistake unless you tell them; they do not know what you had planned to say and, therefore, won’t miss any bits you may forget.
Instead, give yourself permission to be less than perfect. Set yourself challenging, yet achievable, standards and give yourself a pat on the back when you’ve spoken. Focus on what you did well, savour the glory and note ways in which you can be even better next time. Great speeches do not happen overnight. They are an iterative process of crafting and honing content, practising delivery and seeking feedback.
Remember nerves are normal
What is nervousness? It is energy; it is what we experience when the adrenaline is flowing. It gives us energy and presence in front of an audience and brings out our enthusiasm and passion for our subject, it helps us engage with our audience.
Before this nervous energy gets going we need to be well prepared and focused on what will go right, not what could go wrong. Give yourself the pre-match pep talk – I’m ready, this is going to be fun, I have the right audience for my message etc. In preparation some presenters find it helpful to move, run on the spot, jump up and down. Breathe slowly and deeply. Take to the stage and pause. Take a deep breath and start to connect with your audience with your attention-grabbing opening. After your speech, enjoy the surge of wellbeing you get from your success.
There will always be someone on the phone, yawning or looking distracted. This is not personal. Instead, focus on the majority of people in your audience who are with you, who are alert and attentive, the people who are smiling, nodding and appreciating what you have to say. Connect with these interested people by sharing relevant stories and ideas in a way that is meaningful to them and you will feel happier and more relaxed on stage.
Adjusting your mindset takes a little time. However, a permanent ‘note to self’ about connection (not perfection) will prove a useful reminder. By taking every opportunity to speak you will achieve the change you need. Knowing you are reaching people in your audience and connecting with them will not only boost your confidence it will help gain the mutual benefits you’re looking for.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lyn Roseaman is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters and @ToastmastersUKI on Twitter.