I’ve had the pleasure of giving lots of talks, to trade shows, franchise groups and I’ve even taken the floor at pretty important board meetings before. Now, those who know me in real life, know I’m not the loudest person in the world and I tend not to say anything unless I have something really important to say. In short, people would peg me as very likely to be nervous or have the jitters while speaking in front of any sort of group. Most people are pleasantly surprised to see it’s the exact opposite. I can command a room and I can do it while being completely relaxed. How do I do it?
1. I Believe in myself. I wouldn’t have been asked to do this talk, if I didn’t know what I was talking about. I have an abundance of knowledge and enthusiasm to give and having the forum to hand it out is a fantastic opportunity. I know that in a one-on-one situation, I can articulate my ideas and knowledge exceptionally well even when the person I am speaking with has no knowledge base at all in what I do. If I can do it in person with one person, what difference does it make in front of 30?
2. I don’t think about it. Leading up to the talk, I simply don’t think about it. Now, I’m lucky in that I have never given a talk on something I don’t already know like the back of my hand, which makes preparation as easy as just remembering what order to say things in. But I have spoken to so many people about every aspect of what I do, that there is absolutely zero chance of me getting up there and drawing a blank. So, I trust myself to impart the knowledge I need to and I don’t think about it at all until I’m in it. This method also lends itself to giving a talk that seems genuine and not scripted.
3. I look nice! If I look good, I feel good. It’s really as simple as that.
4. Crack a simple joke. I try to crack a joke in the beginning of my talks to break the ice. I’m not trying to get up there and be Russell Peters or anything, just one simple joke, sometimes cheesy. During my talks, I like to crack computer nerd jokes. It loosens up the room and people are now more engaged and will feel more inclined to ask questions, etc.
6. Don’t use visual aids when you don’t have to. I know sometimes they are necessary, but when they are not 100% needed, don’t do it. So many things can go wrong the moment visual aids are brought into the equation. Something is forgotten, a hookup isn’t working, no one knows the wifi password, etc. Talks don’t often recover from those moments gracefully, so avoid them altogether. If you know your topic well, it should be easy to engage your audience without such aids.
The first time I ever gave a talk, I was nervous, I’m not going to lie. But conquering that first time and having people come up to me afterward, praise me and ask if I could come back and continue the talk after the lunch break made me realize that all that nervous energy beforehand was wasted energy. As long as your intent is to go into that room and give the audience some knowledge that they want, you will be received well.
What do you do to get over the pre-talk jitters? Post a comment below and let me know!