You have to make a presentation and you’re already so panicky you draw a blank as you start to plan it. Sound familiar? You’re in good company. The number one situation that gives most Americans panic and stress is giving a speech. So how do you get over stage fright and give a smashing presentation – or at least a clear, effective one?
Stage fright comes from focusing on yourself and your performance, and how your peers will judge you. But that’s not what presentations are about! They’re about giving a message. About explaining, persuading, supporting, inspiring and getting what you want to happen. So spend your energy focusing on what information you want to get across and how to make your audience listen, not on how nervous it makes you. When you start to focus on capturing your audience and making them get your message, you stop thinking about how nervous you’ll be.
Great preparation starts with defining who your audience is. Why do they need to hear what you’re telling them? What do they already know? What are their concerns? For most people, the main motivation in listening (or doing anything, really) revolves around the question: “What’s in it for me?” Harsh, but true, so define your goals and then adapt your message specifically to your audience. Put yourself in their place. What would make you sit up and take notice? How will you intrigue them to want more? These are great questions to ask yourself whether you’re giving a report, selling a service or speaking to a large group.
When you let go of questions like “What will they think of me? How will I measure up?” you’ll be ready to zero in and focus on your message. You see, there can never be a “perfect 10” presentation because everyone has his/her own effective but totally different style. However, although people’s tastes differ, everyone recognizes an interesting, clear and organized message. A presentation is not about “How am I doing and what do you think of ME”. A presentation is about the rest of us out there– your audience. What do THEY need to know and how will you tell THEM so they get it!
Here’s your checklist:
- Stage fright is all about focusing on your appearance, and forgetting your message. Not productive.
- Focus on what will make people listen and get your ideas.
- Clarify your goals and organize your material.
- Turn your attention outward, to your audience, not inward, on you.