I’ve presented, emceed, hosted many different events to audiences of several to several thousand. Although the audience has remarked how natural and comfortable I appear, there are always some nerves and nervousness I feel before the presentation.
That doesn’t stop me from presenting or performing. In fact, I’ve learned to enjoy it!
Here are some practical pointers you could use whether you’re a novice or a seasoned presenter:
- ‘Butterflies’ are expected. In fact they are good! Physiologically, the body protects itself from stressful situations by stimulating the nervous system to ‘fight’ mode. This is an automatic response and very natural. The ‘fight' mode allows a higher level of alertness; energy is created by burning off stored sugar; the eyes dilate. A little nervous energy is good because it’s a like a shot of caffeine when you get up in the morning. It jump starts your awareness. Too much stimulation is not good, and that why the rest of the advice comes in handy (especially how you can slow your nervous system down).
- Know your material well. This comes with practice, practice, practice. It’s ok to have notes or a PowerPoint, but you’ll lose your audience if you look like you’re reading because you are not prepared. That’s because you forgo eye contact and connecting with your audience. Practice your first few sentences over and over. Once you get started and the ice breaks, things flow much better.
- Connect with your audience. Ice breakers are good for them and they are good for you. They relax, and you relax by releasing the first bundle of energy. It doesn’t have to be overly long or drawn out or hilariously funny. A simple hello and greeting and using non-verbal cues such as smiling, eye contact, open postures like not crossing your arms always help. By the way, laughter helps release tension.
- Know your audience. Sometimes this is not possible, but you might have to alter your presentation to be understandable. For example, non-medical people would probably glaze over if I used too many medical terms. Also, Millennials might be on their devices the entire time and not appear engaged when in fact they are communicated. Watch for audience clues such as snoring or falling asleep. It might mean it’s time for a break or change in style!
- Familiarize yourself with the room and the stage beforehand. Walk the stage, notice the lighting, which can be bright. Some stages don’t have podiums, or have monitors or tele-prompters instead. It’s always good to make sure your microphone is on!
To help calm excess energy, there are simple maneuvers you can do: