Wednesday, September 1, 2010

May you break a leg at your next presentation!

No matter the size of the audience, many of us are very nervous when we speak. Here are some pointers that will help:

Get grounded before you start

When I lead presentation skills workshops and attendees are about to give mini-presentations, many will start talking─often apologizing─as they head for the front of the room. Instead, walk silently to the front, place your feet hip width apart with your weight evenly distributed, look at someone in the audience and then start your talk. Oh, and make sure you're not starting with "Um" or "So!"

Talk to one person at a time

Literally. Look at one person for three to four seconds, then move on to the next person. Really make eye contact. Then you're not speaking to a big audience, you're talking to one person. And even better, they will respond─many will nod or smile─and you'll get feedback that you're on target.

And remember to breathe!

When we're nervous, most of us hold our breath. Pretty hard to speak when this is happening. I remember years ago when I was demonstrating on a model. She fainted into my arms! Turns out she was holding her breath and had locked her knees. Recipe for disaster. Check out a previous blog post where I talk about diaphragm breathing. Not only does it help calm you; it gives you a stronger voice.

Now, break a leg!

(BTW, Wikipedia lists many theories behind the etymology of that phrase.)

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