How can you take the stress out of public speaking?
Being afraid of public speaking is common. It’s even common in the business world where presentations are a regular part of life. It’s (wrongly) assumed everyone can do it. So what can you do if you are nervous about presenting? Here are 2 great tips for calming your nerves before your next presentation and a 3rd tip which I came across while doing some research on this topic.
1. Know your content
Knowing your content is a must if you want to stay cool, calm and collected when presenting. Conversely, not knowing your content will always create anxiety and stress. You need to take the time to identify your key messages, connect these messages to your audience and build an engaging and easy to follow structure. If you know:
- what you want to say,
- why you are saying it,
- how you’ll say it,
- when you’ll say it,
- what your audience might ask,
- and how you’ll answer these questions…
…then you’ve reduced the chances of something going wrong – and you will have reduced your anxiety and stress levels. This sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in a presentations coaching session only to discover the manager hadn’t really invested enough time in thinking about the content. Knowing your content is key!
2. Practice your delivery – and practice it out loud
Another obvious, yet often ignored, tip is to practice your presentation aloud before you deliver it. Planning it in your head or on paper is great – but it’s not enough. I remember learning from a German executive the idea of practising your presentation front of the mirror in the bathroom. He told me that it helped “to see if the words fit his mouth” and “to test the rhythm”. Others who have since adopted this approach have mentioned that they found themselves watching their own body language and it helped them with posture and hand gestures. If standing in front of a mirror feels a little uncomfortable, then try:
- recording yourself on your phone,
- asking somebody you respect to be your audience,
- or just closing the door and speaking aloud.
3. Have sex, lots of it
In 2006, Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in the UK, examined the relationship between sexual behaviour patterns, blood pressure, and its reactivity to stress. Stress was provoked and evaluated through public speaking and mental arithmetic activities. Publishing his finding in the renowned New Scientist magazine, Brody found that having regular penetrative sex can help keep stress at bay. Volunteers who had had intercourse were found to be the least stressed, and their blood pressure returned to normal faster than those who had engaged in other forms of sexual activity.
In a nutshell, those having lots of sex were comparatively less stressed by public speaking than those who didn’t. In fact it might be reasonable to conclude that not only can sex help reduce your stress levels but, if you can find a willing partner, it might actually encourage you to make more presentations.
A final word of advice
Each of these 3 tips can help reduce the sense of anxiety and stress that many people feel when having to speak in public. The less nervous you are, the more confident and successful you’ll be on the day. Just don’t do try all three at the same time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.
- Train the trainer: interactive presentations
- Storytelling in presentations
- Giving presentations scares me to death