11 Aug What are the top tips for developing more confidence when presenting in front of an audience?

There is no single thing, magic formula or short cut that is a panacea for a lack of confidence when presenting. If you feel you are lacking in confidence, consider a change of approach. Begin by writing a slogan in big letters:

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.
IT’S ALL ABOUT MY AUDIENCE

And then try the following tips:

  1. Analyse your audience.
  2. Structure your message.
  3. Breathe.
  4. Relax your muscles.
  5. Extend yourself into the audience.
  6. Use the power of your mind.
  7. Get feedback.

1. Analyse your audience
It’s critical to spend some time analysing both the current and desired state of your audience.

2. Structure your message
If you have a nice, tight, well-crafted message, and you have designed it with a model that allows you to remember the information without relying on notes, then of course you’ll feel more confident.

3. Breathe
Breathing is something we take for granted. We think and breathe all the time. Actually, one of the most common pieces of feedback that I give to clients in presentation skills training and coaching is to breathe! Diaphragmatic breathing takes some practice; however, it does provide you with many benefits:

  1. You’ll feel calmer.
  2. Your voice will be more powerful.
  3. You’ll retain your clarity of thought because when you breathe deeply the blood pumps oxygen around your body more efficiently.

4. Relax your muscles
Practise releasing the tension in your body. Relaxing is something that takes lots of practice. Just think about all those millions of Australians who engage in some kind of meditation, yoga or massage to try and wind down. Those of you who present a lot probably can’t go off for a massage the hour before every presentation. So what can you do to help yourself? Try to ascertain where you hold your tension. Perhaps it is in your shoulders, neck or face? Many people even tend to hold tension in the buttock area! Once you’ve isolated your problem area, try tensing and relaxing the muscles associated with that area. Do this just before you present; you’ll be amazed at the difference.

5. Extend yourself into the audience
You may agree that when you are nervous you focus on the symptoms that indicate nervousness. In other words, you become aware of your thumping heartbeat, the butterflies in your stomach and an increased body temperature. The idea behind extending the self is that if you continue to focus on yourself, you’ll become more aware of the nervous symptoms and will become more and more nervous. Alternatively, if you can find a way to fully focus on your audience then you won’t be aware of feeling the various nervous symptoms, which means that you won’t feel nervous.

How do you extend the self?
This is somewhat tricky and even some of the greatest public speakers don’t do it very well. However, once you work out how to do it, it will ensure you are an engaging, charismatic presenter every time. Here’s a summary for you.

When it’s time to deliver your presentation, it’s essential to
remember: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE AUDIENCE!

Claim your space confidently and charismatically at the head of the meeting table or in the centre of the room or stage where you are presenting. Next, imagine there is a ‘bubble’ around you and your audience. Then you throw your attention out into the bubble. Look into the whites of your audience’s eyes, rather than skim their heads or pretend to look at them. Know that they are real, live humans, who you have the wonderful opportunity to influence and help. This takes your focus off yourself and your nerves and places your attention on the audience — which in turn, enhances your connection or rapport with them. It’s as good as magic!

6. Use the power of your mind
Many of the best presenters use the power of positive thinking before they present. They imagine themselves as successful, confident, engaging speakers and are often delighted with the results. Others imagine themselves as something or someone else. (Please note you should not let this technique change you into something that you are not. Rather, it should help to bring out an inherent quality that you believe you are not displaying).

7. Get feedback
In my experience, many people focus a lot on their negative points and their nervousness, rather than on their positive attributes, like their voice or their personal presentation. Setting up a system in your organisation where you can give feedback and receive it from others whom you respect, and who are sensitive to your needs, is a great way of finding out what you are doing well. This can boost your confidence tenfold.

I really believe that most people are more nervous then they need to be, simply because they have no idea what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing to manage their nerves. So get ready to transform yourself from a presenter who feels nervous to a confident, engaging presenter who achieves results.