How to feel confident when speaking in public
Does the thought of standing up in front of a crowded room make your heart race and your knees quiver? Do you break out in a cold sweat just thinking about speaking in public? Do you forget what to say and mumble your words when put on the spot in front of an audience (big or small)? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of others, and in fact, more people than not struggle with public speaking.
Regardless of whether you’re in front of a few co-workers or thousands of audience members, feeling anxious and stressed when faced with the task of public speaking is completely normal. In fact, some anxiety and fear can be a good thing! However, it’s how you focus that nervous energy that makes all the difference when presenting to others. Here are five ways to manage your nerves and channel them into positive energy and confidence during your next public speaking gig:
Start with a story or a joke
Open your talk with a joke or personal story to immediately get the audience to form some type of emotional bond to you and your presentation. Whether it is a simple joke to make the audience laugh, or a story about your professional journey, creating an emotional bond can instantly help you relax and make both parties more comfortable and interested in what is to come. Being able to look out into the audience and see smiling faces will lighten the mood and start your presentation off in the right direction.
Focus on a few key people in the audience
When people are nervous, they tend to avoid looking directly at people in the audience. Instead, try focusing your attention on a few people who seem very interested in what you’re talking about. Make eye contact and smile at these people, and return your gaze to these same people throughout your presentation. Seeing the same faces over and over again will connect you to your audience and reassure you that what you are presenting is important. Connecting with a few key people in the audience will make you sound more confident and feel more comfortable.
Engage and interact
Make your presentation engaging by asking the audience questions and getting their participation throughout your talk. This will take some of the pressure off of you to perform the whole time, and can also give you time to reorganize your thoughts and look over your notes if you go off track or make a mistake. Interacting with the crowd and getting them involved will make your presentation more entertaining and engaging, giving your confidence a huge boost!
Act passionate about what you’re presenting
Chances are if you don’t care about what you are talking about, neither will your audience, which will only make your presentation more uncomfortable and your nerves more prevalent. Even if you could care less about a certain topic you have to present in class, act like it’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever encountered. Express your emotions by getting really into what you’re talking about and being passionate about the information you are presenting. Without even realizing it, this will mask the jitters and make you come across as more confident (even if you really aren’t on the inside).
Practice. A lot.
When you’re offered public speaking opportunities, take them! As much as you may hate it, the only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. If your professor offers extra credit to students who present a lecture, do it! Join a club and propose to run the meetings or create the presentation slides. Ask your boss if you can lead the next global conference call or meeting. With each public speaking opportunity you take, your confidence and self-esteem will only improve.