Are you a little nervous when you have to make a presentation to a group? Or perhaps scared witless? Would you rather get a root canal than stand up in front of group and talk? Speaking in public has commonly been recognized as our greatest fear—surpassing snakes, the dark, the unknown, and yes, even death. Apparently people would rather die than give a speech!
But you can minimize and master your anxiety. Let’s start with things you can do to quell the qualms before you even speak. I have seven key advance strategies that I call the 7 Ps:
1. Prepare. Know your main points. Organize them in an outline form with key words and phrases. Then talk-not read-from it.
2. Plan to use Props or visuals. This technique is important because it gives you purpose. It gives you something to do with your hands, diminishing the helplessness that comes with anxiety.
3. Picture your success. Just as picturing the worst can be self-fulfilling, so can anticipating success. Picture your poise and confidence and the audience’s rapt attention and reception. It will be more likely to happen that way.
4. Be more than Punctual. Get to the location early to check out the room and the equipment. It minimizes surprises, which will always notch up the anxiety.
5. Polyester-proof yourself. Anxiety raises our body temperature. So wear natural fabrics—cotton, linen, silk, wool—because they breathe better than manmade fabrics and will keep you more comfortable in the heat of the moment.
6. Practice, practice, practice. The more you hear the words roll off your tongue, the more comfortable you’re going to be saying them. You’ll also learn exactly how long your talk is, which is crucial if you’re going to fit within the time limits you’ve been given.
7. Present often. Like any skill, you will get better and more comfortable at it the more you do it.
These are all behaviors or choices you can make that can help keep the butterflies at bay. See the article, “What to do When the Butterflies Turn into Barracudas,” to learn specific tips to manage the anxiety when you’re experiencing it.