As you progress in your career, you will increasingly be called upon to present ideas to others. And because you will be in the limelight, this is an opportunity for you to shine. But studies indicate that stage fright ranks ahead of death and is the number one fear of North Americans. To help you, here are some tips that will reduce — not eliminate — the anxiety:
No matter what you do, don't expect to be without fear — it is normal and good. Some adrenaline rush will improve your awareness and produce an excellent performance.
Fear is reduced dramatically by confidence. You can boost your confidence in a number of ways:
Prepare thoroughly beforehand. Practise your speech as many times as it takes to feel confident about your delivery.
Make mental preparations. Visualize yourself being successful. Close your eyes and picture yourself knocking the socks off the audience.
Prepare affirmations. Do some self-talk. Convince yourself that you will be effective, that the audience is interested in what you have to say. Make your affirmations personal. Begin with the "I" word. Maintain the present tense, such as "I am confident," rather than the future tense, such as "I will be much better."
Having key points readily available to ensure that you won't lose your train of thought. These key points could be
pencilled in on a flip chart just visible enough for you to read but not obvious enough that your audience will see them;
highlighted in overheads to give you a structure and a sequence to follow;
noted on cue cards that you can follow if you are using a podium.
Focus on people who are friendly and supportive.
Speak only on topics that interest you.
As you begin, look for the people who are smiling at you or nodding their support. Imagine that your entire presentation is directed at them.
Reduce your anxiety — and the audience's — by starting with something you are familiar with. This will get you into a rhythm and increase your comfort level.
Focus on starting off right. Memorize the beginning of your speech so that you start off strongly.
Never read your speech. Your pitch will tend to become monotone and the exercise will be more of a reading test than a communication exercise. Consider using cue cards with key ideas written on each. No more than eight to twelve cards are needed for a speech of less than thirty minutes.