You’re doing your job well. In fact, you have become your group’s expert in some process or body of information. Now, the owner of the company has called upon you to make a presentation of your latest work. Bonuses, reputation, and continued financing of projects may be on the line. You start sweating and picturing yourself tongue-tied in front of corporate VIP’s. You’ve got the public speaking jitters.
Even high-performing individuals at times deal with acute discomfort in speaking before groups of people. For some, the threshold may be a roomful, while for others a dozen “strangers” may do it. In any event, the result can be dread of the event well in advance as well as mental confusion and physical symptoms. It can impair both the development of a coherent presentation and its delivery. Not to mention that you won’t be able to get your expert point across.
Fortunately, there are demonstrated ways to deal with the jitters.
- Remember You Are Not Alone — Realize that public speaking fears are felt to some degree by even the seemingly smoothest of speakers, just as they have been acknowledged by artistic performers and athletes. Many have described a knot in the stomach or a nightmare about “bombing” before an admiring public. What gets them through ultimately is their faith in their ability, remembering that they know how to do what they’re going to do. You’re an expert in what you’re going to talk about and that you’ve talked about it, at least one-on-one, many times already.
- Use Technology — Media technology has taken a good deal of pressure off the need for a lengthy, detailed oral presentation backed up only by statistical tables or rudimentary charts. PowerPoint and similar systems can present key ideas and powerful backup data or arguments in succinct phrases, capturing the attention of your audience and incidentally keeping their eyes off of you much of the time. Meanwhile, you provide connective and explanatory information, which you can do in conversational language, and answer questions that should be well within your qualifications. If you know an answer, which you’ve probably given many times before, it doesn’t matter whether you’re telling it to one or a thousand people. If you don’t, you can commit yourself to getting it promptly.
- Be Prepared — Don’t stew about the upcoming challenge in isolation. Your colleagues can help you gather and organize information, advise on priorities and emphasis, and act as a sounding board for your ideas and approach. If technology is not your strong suit, engage in the services of a professional to polish your visual aids. You’ll have a dress rehearsal of sorts with your boss so she’s thoroughly familiar with what you’re going to say and has confidence in your package and your ability to deliver it.
The jitters may still be there, but they won’t prevent you from showing what you know, helping your organization, and building your reputation as an expert. You’ll be free from the jitters’ power to hold you back.