What do You Do If You Are Nervous Before Giving a Presentation?
What do you do if you are nervous before giving a presentation, if you are scared, uncomfortable? Common question I get. The number one way to get over nervousness is to practice on video until you love what you see. Now that is not a sexy answer. It is not as sexy as put your hands on your hips and imagine you are wonder woman or visualize people and their underwear. But that is the honest-to-goodness answer. I have said at other places in this course. If you are being following all the way through but it is not something people want to hear. It is kind of like what’s the number one way to get to your ideal body weight. Well it is eating a lot of fruit and vegetables. Do not eat too much. Drink a lot of water and exercise every day.
nobody wants to hear that. They want to hear about a magic pill or a magic surgery or a superfood. It is kind of the same thing with public speaking and getting over your fear of public speaking. You need to practice on video until you like what you see. Do that your fears will melt away.
The Best Worst Presentation I Ever Saw
I was attending a regional Toastmasters convention in Westchester in New York. It is a suburb just north of New York City. I was conducting a training session with Toastmasters there.
But now I was in a room with everyone. There was a competition going on. A speaker comes out and his speech title was something like: children and puppies are nice. I mean it seemed that saccharine that generic and frankly that boring to me. I thought well let me give him a chance. He starts to speak and sure enough it is like: puppies are the most wonderful thing in the world. I like children. I am thinking: Oh my gosh this is embarrassing. It is hard to even look. I have never heard so many boring trite clichés in a speech. This is going to be off. I feel bad for the guy. He continues and it is more about: you know give everybody a hug and smell the flowers and the coffee and just every kind of trite cliché you could imagine. It is going on. It just seems like it is going on forever. I can barely look at this train wreck. I am just imagining when it is done. The stone silence, this speaker is going to receive how awkward it is going to be for the speaker especially but everyone. Finally, he finishes. I am just cringing. I am almost wincing. Then all of a sudden there was the reaction. Laughter, Cheers. Lots and lots of applause. Standing ovation. The audience absolutely loved this guy.
So what are we to make from this? Well one thing you need to take away is: I am not necessarily the best audience for this guy’s speech certainly, but your speech either. you cannot appeal to everyone. You need to know your audience. You are not going to please everyone. That speaker did not please me. I thought he was boring trite insipid and a total waste of time. Everybody else loved him. That is what matters for him. So keep that in mind you are not going to please everyone all the time. As long as you are speaking to the audience that you care about. I was not really the intended audience. Also realize you may hate a speaker you cannot discount them. Just because you do not like them. You have to look at the audience to really get a sense of how it is playing.
Okay so why do I tell that story? A couple of reasons. I one big problem a lot of speakers have is: when they tell stories. they make themselves out to be the hero, the problem solver, the one who came up with a brilliant solution each time. so I do think there is a danger in that. So when you are telling stories quite often at least half the time, you need to make yourself the dummy and do it in a real way. This actually happened this way. I was the one out of sync with the audience. I was the one who did not read the room properly. I did not perceive him the way everyone else did. Another message from this story is: just to realize you should not strike off anyone. Just because you do not like their style or even their message. You need to really listen figure out what you can from that person. It is not that you are going to copy them or do everything the way they did. But there is something about what they did that might have worked. They could work for you too in the future.