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Public Speaking Jitters? No more!!

Public Speaking Jitters

We attend many conferences, workshops, speeches, office workshops and professional events. In my experience, the professional events have a better cadre of speakers not because of the content or intelligence but because of their clarity of what they want to share.

Professional speakers just by their sheer experience of doing it over time, understand the value of them adding something to their audience before they leave the space. It makes the sessions memorable, educational and audience would look forward to their next session whenever they plan to do it.

This strategy works for almost all performers, even same is used by many stand up comedians these days, because they know sharing jokes over a time becomes monotonous and dry, so to add variety even stand up comedians sometimes bring in social issues and hard topics in to public discussion space albeit with a lighter side of it to make it more palatable.

Why I am writing this, because I recently attended a session with an external management consulting firm that came to present their industry findings in regulatory space in an event. Like any presentation and knowledge sharing session, people weren’t expecting much bravado neither anyone anticipated any flamboyance from the speakers.

What we witnessed two wildly different ends of spectrum of presentations in the panel of 4 speakers all from same company, from the engaging, light witted subtle jokes to power point slide reading monotonous session of 30 mins where we weren’t even sure the speaker researched the content thoroughly as well.

I believe following were the key takeaways from that half a day session and I hope these points would help you too, to plan better your next presentation session and be more relaxed while doing it.

  1. Slides are good but are not necessary to share information
    Keep only keywords in the slides, not fully formed sentences, this would help you to narrate the message and your audience will be more attentive towards you than jotting down messages from the slides.
  2. Engage with your audience by picking up cues from the audience
    A lively conversation is when you make eye contact and convey your message with confidence, looking at slides, your own prepared flash cards and printed sheets. People lose confidence in you when you shy away from meeting their eye.
  3. Add some fun but be careful with the tongue in cheek humor
    It is fun to have a witty line here and there but be mindful of the sensibilities of your audience and think before you put that joke across out in open. A well-placed joke with right audience and with suiting sensibilities will increase engagement manifold, but a poorly placed joke will disengage your audience immediately.
  4. Planning the session is great but leave a bit of room for improvisation
    Going by the book is great, and nothing beats the preparation. Even presidents of most powerful nations rehearse their speeches and memorize key words that they want to emphasize in their overall message, but it is okay for leaving some space for improvisation, as many times in middle of your session you may realize that audience is not at the same level as you want them to be. Change the course and surprise them with something that you may noticed there in the room.
  5. Do your research and deliver the content in not too many heavy words
    Knowing your subject matter is always puts you in a comfortable space, so be comfortable with the topic and know some special nuggets of byte sized info takeaways for your audience to get that feeling of knowing something new. If the content is difficult and technical then try to simplify it with analogies that will engage people more.
    Remember even Einstein said, you don’t know a concept well if you can’t simplify it, so that even your wife can understand it. (Wife here means someone who don’t share your domain expertise)
  6. RELAX – The session is for you to shine, be a Rockstar
    Whether you decided to present something or you were asked to, you’re now standing on a stage that belongs to you and your audience expects a Rockstar performance, if you see it that way, then presentations will become more daunting. Do you know why the stages world over have bright blinding lights focused on the stage? Only 2 lights are enough to illuminate the stage for all to see, but those 20 lights are there for performers to not to see the audience and focus on their piece. Keep that in mind. Enjoy your gig, when you’re being your genuine self, you’ll be able to connect with your audience deeper.

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