Do you feel anxious when you have to speak to groups? Obviously you’re not alone: public speaking is one of the toughest social situations that most people have to deal with. I’ve felt it myself, many times. Yet it’s also one of the greatest opportunities to leverage your time, energy and visibility if you’re interested in advancing your career.
Here are 4 tips which can help to shift your negativity, and make presenting a more positive experience.
1. Start to see yourself as ‘presenting’ in everyday situations: when you walk into a meeting, pay for petrol or buy a coffee. Pick one or two interactions each day, and see if you can connect with the other person, no matter how brief your meeting (it may only be a few seconds). Step into ‘presentation’ mode and focus on creating a positive response with the other person. You might think that this would cause more stress, to feel that you’re “on” when you don’t have to be, but it usually has the opposite effect: it actually makes presenting easier.
2. Really focus on them; not in a weird stalker-ish way of course! But enough that you focus on them rather than yourself – this is key to the exercise being successful. I like to work with the eyes, yours and theirs:
- Make sure that you have ‘soft’ eyes: relax your eyes and see the other person gently
- Notice the colour of their eyes
3. Just notice responses. When you’re interacting with a group, notice what responses you’re getting, but don’t be attached to them (easier said than done, I know!). One of the reasons that you’re anxious about public speaking is that when you present to a group you don’t get the ‘conversational cues’ back from the audience that you automatically rely on in your one-on-one interactions. These are the little nods, smiles and signs that the other person is listening and ‘with’ you.
So be prepared for the blank faces: they’re probably just listening. Don’t assume that you’re bombing. Even if there are yawns or fidgeting, that may be nothing to do with your presentation.
4. Don’t try to suppress the anxiety you’re feeling – it will only come back more strongly. Your anxiety is a signal that something needs attention. If you try to ignore it, it will persist and grow. Instead, become a witness, an observer to it. Just notice it, and don’t try to change it. By noticing and stopping the inner fight, it will shift and may well improve on its own. This may sound like I’m over-simplifying, but it can really work.
These tips need practice; and they can really help. What do you think? And if you’d like some extra help, contact me for some private coaching, or join the next 5 week course.