Nervous Speakers – 5 Tips for Stage Fright and Presentation Nerves by Matthew Hill

Your nerves are a positive and essential part of presenting well and staying grounded.

presentation confidence matthew hill

“I feel so good speaking in public”

  1. Reframe Your Nerves as EXCITEMENT

When you think about it, our body does weird and amazing things and we can choose to be un-empowered by them or we can use them constructively. Let me tell you a story about pre-show jitters and dramatic stage fright.

There were two men going up on stage as volunteers. The first, as he leaves the security of his theatre seat feels sweat, constricted breathing, rolling stomach, muscle tremors and a terrifying adrenaline rush that almost makes him loose balance and stumble. When he is up on stage he can hardly interact with the show master, mumbles his name and is a useless helper in the game he is being asked to contribute to. At the end, to add to his humiliation, he his handed a cheap tee shirt. As he walks back to his seat he makes a promise to himself, “I will never come to the theatre EVER again!”

After the interval another man is chosen to “volunteer”. He gets up and feels an exciting rush of adrenaline and thinks that this could be one of those defining moments in his life. He speeds up and rushes towards the stage with a glow of excitement, the panting breathe of anticipation and a feeling of butterflies that reminds him of his tenth birthday. Is this really happening? Has he won the lottery? He leaps on stage, smiles at the performer and adds a joke into his first reply. The crowd go wild with laughter and one or two even clap. He is enjoying himself. The trick runs smoothly and generates more applause. He has never felt so alive and connected to so many people. At the end he enjoys the thanks of the performer, the admiration of the crowd, AND is handed a tee shirt to remember this night for the rest of his life. As he returns to his seat there is a big smile on his face and he says to himself, “I am going to quit my job as an auditor and get BACK on that stage.”

BOTH men had the same physical reaction to the situation. They chose to frame their experiences in different ways. How will you label your body’s reactions when next called to the stage?

  1. The Audience Want You to Succeed

It is easy to think of yourself entering the lion’s den when speaking on stage. What you may not know is that gladiators were the TV celebrities of their time. The audience would come back week after week to see their favourite fighters… WIN. Your audience have paid money, given up their time and sacrificed the chance to do other, easier things. They are invested in you and want you to WIN. They would love you to be comfortable, to get your patter out and complete you mission without mishap. They are rooting for you. In there minds is something simple – If you WIN then they get a chance to benefit. If you perform well, they get the chance to use your wise words, your experience and your life learning. That is, in fact, why they are there. So, remember, the audience is, very much, on your side.

Verschiedene Portraits einer blonden Frau

They want me to WIN!

  1. Even the Greatest Speakers Experience Stage Fright

It is true. There are many live performers that vomit backstage, have moments of terror and have those self-challenging-thoughts, “What if they find out I am a sham?”, “What if I don’t know the answer to a question?”, “What if someone in the audience is clever and hostile and they want to humiliate me? My professional life will be over.”

This is referred to as Imposter Syndrome and EVERBODY gets it. The truth is that the public speaker possesses a co-constructed identity that is temporary and happens when you are on the stage, red mic light on, in front of a live audience. It is not ALL that you are and you probably don’t do this every day. It is a part of who you are. For the rest of the time you are a much more ordinary figure. And that is OK. Linked to the last point, no one actually expects you to be a superhero (except maybe yourself.) Having doubt keeps you at your best. Hearing those “What if” questions maintains your hunger for perfection and improvement. Doubt keeps you present and grounded. Do not wish away the fear – that is the path to complacency, drift and autopilot delivery.

  1. Build Your Expert Status From the Inside

The quickest way to get your personal power surging is to write down your “numbers.” By this I mean the figures for what you have achieved so far. Everybody had accomplished more than they are conscious of and this exercise really helps. How many years have you been doing the thing that you are speaking about? How many customers have you helped? Reports have you written? Deals have you negotiated? When you look at your track record and put down the numbers they will always impress…you.

As great coaches say you can achieve less in a day than you wish but more in a month than you expect. Over the years you have achieved an enormous amount in a wide number of areas. Take a moment to write down your life and career highlights and to really, deeply acknowledge just how far you have come, just how much experience you have accumulated and just how much you actually know.

  1. Affirmations Affirm Your Greatness.

A way of countering the self doubt and unhelpful chatter running through your mind is to build some self affirming mantras that help lay some new mental pathways that, with repetition, will magically turn into self-affirming beliefs. They will be your public speaker truths. The easiest is the ANV – Adjective Noun that Verbs. Take a moment to write down 10 to 30 describing words that are positive, bright and give energy (these are the adjectives). Next you may use positive words to describe your multiple life and professional roles (these are the nouns.) Then form sentences that include who you help, what they achieve and how you help them (this is the verb bit.) And put it all together – “ I, Name Name, am an Adjective, Adjective, Adjective Noun, Noun, Noun & Noun that Verbs, Verbs and Verbs! And I am… AAAWWWEEESSSOOOMMMEEE.

Super businessman flying over a city

AAWWEESSSOOMMEE

When you learn this formula, fill in the spaces, make it your mantra, and repeat it, you will release the helpful chemicals in your body that support you, the public and professional presenter, speaker and subject matter expert. This allows you to help many more people to overcome their pain and achieve so much more for themselves.

How does that feel?

I have good news for you – You are now Ready!

I hope that these 5 ideas have helped you to reverse your doubts, calm your jitters, and to reframe stage fright as a necessary and useful part of delivering a high impact presentation and an effective public speech.

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a Presentation Coach and Group Trainer – If you wish to contact and engage Matthew to improve your professional presentation performance, then do call him on 07540 65 9995 or send an E Mail to matthew.hill@hillnetworks.com .

Advertisements

10 Presentation Crimes That Your Audience Will Not Forgive – and What YOU can do to stay F-R-R-E-E-E by Matthew Hill

Be Arresting. Don’t Get Arrested!

Having just sat through 20+ presentations and talked to fellow audience members at a Congress in Dublin the other week, I thought I would turn the sometimes tortuous challenge of staying calm sitting in the audience into a What Not To Do List and provide better ways of catering for your audience’s basic Human Rights.

Presentation Skills Course Matthew Hill

Sorry, Urh, hang on a minute…

BTW – More than 65% of the presenters were good and about 10% were excellent – However (always a warning word) however, some seemed to be living in the ‘90’s before TED and all those great YouTube videos that clearly spell out how to get audience engagement and knowledge transfer RIGHT.

10 Crimes – The Charge Sheet

1, The Presenter Panicked and Ran – Whether thrown off balance by technical issues, a late start of not having rehearsed against the clock, many presenters, including Key Note Speakers managed to get into a sweaty nervous panic during their talks. When you speed up at the end of your slot, your audience know something is amiss. When you admit that time has got away from you and then do not adjust, the audience become anxious on your behalf and when you say, “I will stop now!” 4 times without finishing, the audience will condemn you to presenter hell in your presence. The cost to you of presenter panic is having an audience close their minds with a slamming sound as the barriers drop preventing any transfer value. What a pity. What a waste. What a misspending of all that preparation time.

ANSWER

If you rehearse against the clock you can measure your content against the allocated time and therefore regain control. Additionally you may have a section that you can jettison if you experience a time scare. Not right at the end but 50 or 60% of the way through. Also keep your piece simple enough for the time allocated. A 90 minute monologue simply doesn’t work in 2017 and 20 minutes is not enough time to outline splitting the atom or finding a cure for world hunger.

When you feel scarcity – SLOW DOWN – This will give you time to think, look cool in front of your audience and present the appearance of being in control. We will repeat this later – Your Audience wants you to SUCCEED.

2, Voice Crime. There is nothing worse for the speaker or the audience than someone sat at the back shouting, “We can’t here you”, ”Please speak up” or, “We can’t hear you at the back.” Beside thinking that they should have got here earlier and found a better seat, this will distract you from your delivery, dilute your message and divide the audience into those who join in the bullying and those that start to pity you. Both groups are not doing you any favours. Add to the crime sheet the monotone presenter, the mutterer or the huddled script reader and you have a case ready for prosecution.

ANSWER

Singing lessons – Yes, I am serious. If you wish to project your voice, if you wish to raise your volume, if you wish never to loose your voice again during a presentation, join a choir or take individual singing lessons. It will do wonders for your voice quality, your confidence and your connection with the audience.

3, Technical Failure To Appear – In Dublin we were treated to the latest and the best equipment but – the presenters with older computers did not have an HDMI slot, the corporate trainers had not all worked with touch screens before and the new Prezi users did not all have enough practice with the application (presumably because they had spent all of their allocated tech time figuring out how to MAKE their first Prezi presentation and had not left enough to practice their show in realistic conditions.) The results were PREDICTABLE. Embarrassing faffing, asking the tech crew for help, delaying the start of the show and demonstrating the presenter’s flaws to the audience before they had managed to accumulate enough credit to afford to appear vulnerable.

ANSWER

Keep your technical level of presentation one level below your technical level of competence. Have a Plan B and back up your data. And don’t expect your venue to have usable WiFi, don’t expect to run YouTube clips live – record them and load them as MP4’s. That way they will run on just about anything. It is the most inexperienced presenters that tend to be the most technically ambitious. Those that have given a few webinars know to expect the unexpected and are able to manage the disruption in technical service with a cool head, an even voice and a smooth transition to the next section of the show.

presentation skills coach matthew hill

Too many words… take him away.

  1. Murder by Slides. The Geneva Convention states that PowerPoint slides must not have more than 20 words on them. Despite this, we saw endlessly wordy, small font decks with no visuals, no colour and no useful transfer potential to them. The audience could either ignore the slides or ignore the presenter and start reading the slides for themselves. A lose-lose.

ANSWER

Separate out the desire to present and the need to transfer data and make some tough decisions before you get to the venue – What will you project with your voice and what data will you MAKE AVAILABLE AFTERWARDS in the form of a hand-out / appendix or further reference materials? Understand that slides can be pretty placeholders, a mechanism to reinforce your message with visual people and a good place for graphics, a pie charge or a simple model. However…nobody wants to multi-task during the show so STOP torturing them and plan your information flow more considerately.

 

  1. Methodology Overdose – Closely related to the point above, in a non- academic context there is ZERO need to reveal the statistical significance of your raw research. The audience have one question for you; WIIFT? What is in it for THEM? How can they apply your experience for their benefit? END of.

ANSWER

As above – offer an appendix, a data hand out or a lab session demonstrating your methods, approach, analysis and technical findings. AND – in your short presentation tell them the interesting bits. How it worked, what the conclusions are and how it can be applied for gain.

 

  1. The Presenter Got High – Audience Altitude – Finding their Level. There are two crimes here – going too high or staying too low. Both ways will crash your presentation vehicle. If you pitch it too low for too long you will build up an irritation in your audience that will come out in people leaving your talk with a noisy banging of doors or firing sarcastic questions at you that interrupt you and undermine your credibility.

It you pitch it too high the crowd will turn into a Zombie Apocalypse before your very eyes. Take this as natural feedback telling you that you failed to do your homework, identify your audience segment and that you omitted to refine your message enough to hit the target.

ANSWER

Do your homework, speak to some people, interview the organisers and don’t take general answers for the truth. Your job is to engage, inform and entertain. Your job is to tell a story. Your job is to move people intellectually and emotionally. Your job is to prevent suicidal thoughts rippling through the front row.

 

  1. If It Pleases Your Honour – Time Management – We have dealt with the panic of starting late, not checking the length of your presentation and of lying about when it will end. This aspect is more about the cultural differences in the perception of the flow of time and gaining explicit permission to tell your story. At the beginning of your talk you have 30 seconds to win the hearts and minds of your audience! If you fail, then the rest of your talk can only do damage – to the hopes and dreams of your audience and to your REPUTATION. When you win their support quickly, you will be given 5 minutes grace … to win their enthusiasm for the next 15 minutes! Do you see how it works?

ANSWER

Hit them hard at the beginning – fire a big gun – a moral question, a challenging fact or a brutal prediction – engage your audience and ask, “Do you want to hear more?” They will then award you explicit permission to continue. Really. This psychological contract will become stronger the more they engage with you – the great presenter.

 

  1. Straying From The Straight And Narrow – There are two ways to leave the path here – audience drift and speaker drift. The former consists of being caught out or taking a side bar because of an audience intervention – through being nice and respecting the audience or the influence of a strong personality sat in the second row, you drift off and ANNOY everyone else. Pleasing a strong personality is not a winning strategy for the whole audience. OR you get on to your pet subject, leave your own path and start busking (the phrase for making it up as you go along) much to the irritation of the linear focussed listeners in front of you. When you start entertaining yourself you automatically disrespect the sensibilities of your audience.

ANSWER

Learn to assert yourself and police your audience – Putting a hand up and saying, “Let’s get back on track” is normally enough. If you are likely to wander away from your presentation pathway, build in milestones to remind yourself of the key points that you must make. If you find yourself drifting too wide of those marks, apologise and return to the point.

 

presentation crimes matthew hill

Out of Date Material – Arrest that presenter!

  1. Criminal Exhibit A – Old Material – The older your material, the greater the chance that the audience will have encountered it before or, and worse still, they will have encountered you before, saying the same thing. There is a famous Dutch father of culture who basically has one keynote speech. What ever you engage him to speak about, out he will come with his one keynote speech – And it is difficult to get a refund sometimes.

ANSWER

Read, listen and watch. Be present to developments. Watch out for shifts in the direction of your specialist subject and keep your presentation approach fresh, present and alive. It is not a crime to renew your perspective, challenge YOUR OWN beliefs and treat your audience to something EXCITING and challenging.

 

  1. Old Lag – You Are Not Enjoying It. The voice in your head starts to unsettle you, “Are they really listening to you?”, “ Do they believe a word you are saying?”, “Do they think you look pretty / handsome?” We can develop all sorts of complexes or simply become bored with our own style or topic when we have been presenting too long and need an upgrade – even the best can suffer from imposter syndrome, delusions of paranoia or become completely immune to the charm of their own material and certainly doubt its power to impress.

And. If you are not enjoying the show as a presenter, you can GUARANTEE that the audience are suffering too. Is it time to hand yourself in to the authorities?

ANSWER

At the beginning of any performance it is a safe bet to assume that the audience want you to DO WELL. They are actively looking for signs that you are relaxed, comfortable and up for this. They want to you to win. At the beginning you can assume that most of them LOVE you. All you have to do is not let them down (too badly.)

It is time to work on your material, work out who your ideal and appreciative audience will be and to work on your delivery, presence and voice so that YOU enjoy the show and THEY benefit from listening to you? Is this the time to seek professional help – a presentation advocate to defend your actions and get you off the charge of being a criminal presenter so that you can walk into your next speech a Free Person?

presenting

I sentence you…

The Judge’s Summation

With a little planning, anticipation and rehearsal you can avoid cabbages and rotten eggs flying through the air, the tarnishing of your reputation as a speaker or hearing negative mumblings as you leave the building.

Remember presenting represents the single most powerful opportunity to engage with and impress people that you have never met before. Please respect the audience’s patience, attention span, their need for structure, their appreciation of a good story AND their desire for a confident performance from you – THE SPEAKER (defendant.)

I wish you well with you next presentation…

I sentence you to 10 hours Community Presentation Practice – You are free to go…

 

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a Presentation Skills Coach (amongst other things) He works with ambitious professionals who need to impress and desire to be better. Contact Matthew on; 07540 65 9996.

 

Presentation Disasters and 5 tips to help YOU not make them by Matthew Hill

 

Plug into the audience and let the electricity flow

The gap between a person’s brain, intellect and expertise and their ability to communicate even a small part of this wisdom to an audience can be wider than the Grand Canyon. I remember meeting one of the deepest thinkers on educating people that the UK has ever produced. He was also one of the worst public speakers an audience has ever had to endure. This irony continues to buzz around my mind.

Below are 5 ideas that you can apply to make sure no one says about YOU, “They seem to really know their stuff. It’s a pity their attempt to convey it to the audience is a total failure!”

Smiling newscaster during broadcasting. And here is the news…

  1. It’s not about you – whilst you are the star, standing under the light, mic in hand and dressed to kill, the point of the presentation is to align your information and message to the desired outcomes of the majority of your audience.

Useful questions before you present might be, “What is their level of knowledge?” “What do they expect today?” “What do they want from this session?” And, finally, “What do they really need?”

Before you write a word of your presentation, ask these questions and be mindful of the answers. Also implied in their response is bonus information – What they absolutely DON’T want you to speak about.

Verschiedene Portraits einer blonden Frau

  1. First impressions last – I once tripped over on a stage in Milan in the style of Charlie Chaplin and raised an embarrassingly large laugh from the audience. Unfortunately that was not my intention and things did not flow smoothly from that point on.

An audience will have read your profile and possibly check you out on LinkedIn. They are making an active and tough judgment of you based on your physical appearance. If you are scruffy, ill-prepared to deal with technology, hesitant and showing non-verbal signs of stress, anxiety and fear it is no wonder that the audience will disengage from your private greatness and let their minds wonder to other topics (probably sex and shopping.)

What does it take to make a fantastic first impression?

Dressing one level smarter than your audience, dry cleaning your dark suit, investing in a decent haircut, considering replacing your glasses with contact lenses, practicing Amy Cuddy’s power poses and firing your BIG GUNS first. All of these represent a good start.

Seat on fire

  1. Pleasure or pain? Related to 2. The audience will amalgamate all of the information you are consciously and unconsciously broadcasting and rank you on two exclusive scales.

Power and dominance – your tone, stern look, square shoulders, booming voice and content of doom laden scenarios and facts may give you an impressively high dominance score. Is that what you want?

Likable and trustworthy – A high score on the opposite scale is achieved by displaying charisma, charm, humour, self-deprecation, honesty, integrity and demonstrating your ethical values to the audiences.

Only you can decide which scale is more appropriate your next presentation – Is it time to practice non-verbal charm in the mirror or to rev up your sergeant major impression?

bubble of communication

  1. Words Words Words With everything you say you are either engaging more with the audience or distancing them. You may think that filling your presentation with intellectual complexity, esoteric jargon and obfuscating argot will do the job. Wrong – The simpler you are the more you will connect with the audience and the more they will buy what you are selling.

Speed trumps caution

Many presentation coaches warn that excessive speed of presentation will be perceived negatively. This is not the case (with the caveat that you need an audience speaking the same language as you.) As long as you are clear and loud enough your audience will be taken away by the speed at which you deliver your wisdom. Unlike complexity, speed is perceived as a sign of intelligence.

Fluent slick and smooth

Unsurprisingly, a smooth radio delivery will impress an audience. On occasions it will increase your ratings even when you are having an off day, your brain is addled with tiredness or your mind can only manage to operate at half power.

Listening. “Tell me more”

  1. Everyone loves a story – Every presentation coach is asked what is the best structure for delivering a presentation. It can be a best man speech, a professor’s keynote address at a conference or thanking people at your retirement do. The best way to package information is to give it a familiar dramatic structure – beginning, middle and end, a “V” structure – unleashing tragic chapters that shock your audience followed by an inspiring twist and uplifting ending, or a WW structure like a Dr. Martin Luther King speech that repeatedly takes the audience from the difficult present to a better envisioned future.

Men don’t like emotion.

Whilst there are some coal mining villages where men can only cry if they are one kilometer underground, most humans, irrespective of gender, enjoy having their feelings taken for a spin. It is diverting and stimulating and always will be.

Human Rights

Please respect the human right of your audience not to be bored within an inch of their life. Practice practice practice until you are fluent and can lose yourself in a story that entertains even you, the speaker.

And if you are not a natural comedian, a presentation is not the place to begin your new stand-up career.

Good luck with the next presentation. I hope you WOW the audience and they give you a standing ovation.

Senior Sales and Culture Trainer Matthew Hill

Matthew Hill

Matthew Hill is an Intercultural Trainer, Author, Speaker and Coach working with international audiences to help them uncover their deeper potential and shine in public.