Public Speaking and Presentations – nervous?

Do you still feel nervous before presenting? What tips do you have to overcome the fear? – asked by a Public Speaking Coach in China

Well, true story: I remember, and hopefully will never forget, when I was about 13-14 years old and about to go on stage before a concert in London. I was playing the piano as part of a large orchestra backing a well-known group at this apparently very prestigious event. The Conductor, someone who’d known me ever since I was a little kid, touched me on the shoulder as we stood behind the curtain wating for our cue. He asked me if I was nervous. I shook my head and I remember saying something like, “No, not really. I mean, I know the music back to front, I love it, feel it, and it’s like… hmm well, most of the time I close my eyes and play like I’m in the living room at home.” He shook his head right back at me. “I know what you mean, but, it’s not right,” he said. “You should respect the people, the occasion. First of all, you owe it to them to at least be a little nervous. And besides,” he added “it’s good to be a little nervous; it gets your adrenalin pumping in a really positive way.”

Aside from regularly presenting business concepts and marketing plans, I speak publicly to diversified small and large groups of people.

Being passionate about your subject and having the necessary and relevant knowledge to share is pretty much a prerequisite of course. I make sure to have my material locked in my head and have notes with the sequence of ideas… and key words and phrases highlighted on a little paper too… and I’m careful to not let things veer too far, if at all, from the script. And yes, I make sure to ‘look’ (and feel) my best – as most appropriate for the occasion. True humility is very important too. It’s a privilege to be granted the attention of others. Thankfully, I still respect the listeners and appreciate their presence greatly; enough to be a little nervous. And I’m not shy to let that shine through a little too; in what has proven to be a very healthy and motivational way.

Bottom line, the blend of being perfectly well-prepared (content and communication skill/style) and a sense of humility (respect for the audience and gratitude for one’s own ‘right’ to be there) will also allow the ‘right’ amount of “I’m a little nervous too” adrenaline to pump healthily through and for one’s ideas to be well-received;)