I've been doing a lot of presenting recently, and I have no problem admitting that it's tough. For those not born with natural eloquence, public speaking can be remarkably nerve-racking. But I’m getting a lot better!
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that to be a great public speaker, it’s key to develop a personal speaking style. Since I know I’m not the most eloquent speaker in the world, I make up for it by packing my presentations with enthusiasm, unique/proprietary data, and tons of useful content as well as plenty of dumb jokes.
We can't all deliver the next Gettysburg Address, but there are lots of small things you can do prior to your presentation that will help calm your nerves and set you up for a better presentation. Here are my best tips to improve your presentation skills.
Naturally, you'll want to rehearse your presentation multiple times. While it can be difficult for those with packed schedules to spare time to practice, it's essential if you want to deliver a rousing presentation. I’m famous around the office for staying up late the night before a big presentation, practicing over and over. If you really want to sound great, write out your speech rather than taking chances winging it – if you get nervous about speaking, a script is your best friend.
Try to practice where you'll be delivering your talk. Some acting strategists suggest rehearsing lines in various positions – standing up, sitting down, with arms open wide, on one leg, while sitting on the toilet, etc. (OK, that last one may be optional.) The more you mix up your position and setting, the more comfortable you'll feel with your speech. Do a practice run for a friend or colleague, or try recording your presentation and playing it back to evaluate which areas need work. Listening to recordings of your past talks can clue you into bad habits you may be unaware of, as well as inspiring the age-old question: "Is that what I really sound like?"
2. Transform Nervous Energy Into Enthusiasm.
It may sound strange, but I'll often down an energy drink and blast hip-hop music in my earphones before presenting. Why? It pumps me up and helps me turn jitters into focused enthusiasm. Studies have shown that an enthusiastic speech can win out over an eloquent one, and since I'm not exactly the Winston Churchill of presenters, I make sure that I'm as enthusiastic and energetic as possible before going on stage. Of course, individuals respond differently to caffeine overload, so know your own body before guzzling those monster energy drinks.