Quick hacks to stop you feeling self-conscious in front of an audience
Do you get nervous if you have to speak in front of a group? I’m sure you know that many people find speaking in public a nerve-racking experience.
As someone who has struggled with a lack of confidence and now speaks in front of audiences for a living, I’d like to share some quick tips that have helped me when the nerves start to take hold.
Firstly, make sure your message is all about your audience, not about you. Think about the people who are hearing your message and focus first on what will be of most interest and relevance to them. Rather than pushing information at them, use examples, stories and questions that are all about their world. Try not to use a lot of “I”-focused language – especially at the start of your presentation. Allow your audience to feel comfortable knowing you care about their needs and what’s important to them.
And while we’re on the subject of your audience, the second tip is to keep your mental focus on them throughout your presentation. This is easier said than done, but once you’ve got the hang of this technique it will be a life-saver in those moments when self-doubt starts closing in.
If you can feel yourself starting to cave to an avalanche of nerves, look directly at people in your audience (whether it’s in a small meeting or a larger presentation) and ask yourself, “What do you need from me in this moment? How can I best serve you right now?” When you do that, your nerves diminish or vanish completely because you're no longer self-conscious – you’re others-focused. You can’t be both at the same time.
By genuinely focusing on your audience you won’t need to think much about the third tip, which is to use inclusive gestures to connect with them. If your mind is focused on them, you will naturally gesture in an inclusive way. While you’re still practising, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself to use open-palmed gestures at waist height (or just above the table if you’re sitting in a meeting). This helps to build rapport and engagement.
At the end of the day, people will forgive you for fumbling a word or even ten. They’ll be far less forgiving if you make no effort to build connection with them.
When you're in front of a group, make sure your message is really heard by inviting your audience in.