Standing up at the top of a class, looking down onto all of your classmates, or eyeballing them over Zoom can be daunting. For many of us, those butterflies in your belly decide to have a dance party, your mouth gets dry and your heart starts racing. Yep, we’ve all been there. Public speaking of any kind can be scary, but just like the old saying goes “practice makes perfect”.
Do you think Beyoncé just woke up one morning and was able to sing, dance, perform and just slay? Of course not! She practiced and practiced until, little by little, those butterflies disappeared. Sure, our own team still gets a little nervous every time we step foot into a classroom to meet girls. Do you know why? We are human and being scared and nervous are normal valid emotions when we are doing something new and being pushed out of our comfort zone.
So, whether you are one of those crazy people who love talking to big groups – not that you are crazy-crazy, but you’re a bit mad to be fair – or if you just want to stick your head in the sand at the thought of presenting to a group, we’re here to help.
Here are some top tips we’ve learned over the years to beat those presentation butterflies.
1. Focus on one person
Do you know when your teacher tells you to make eye contact with the audience? Yeah, eye contact can be scary. What works well for us, when we’re feeling nervous, is to find someone you know, tell them you are nervous and mention you are going to try to focus on them. That way, it’s just like you are talking to them. Well, kind of, but you know where we are going.
2. Don’t memorize your presentation
We know we said practice makes perfect, but you can actually practice too much. Learning things word for word can actually put you under more stress. Picture yourself rocking a presentation, then all of a sudden, you can’t remember that third word on the second line of your note cards. You’ll throw yourself off! What we found helps, is to actually understanding the material you are presenting. That way, if you get a little stuck, you can just reword it and plough ahead.
3. Talk about how you feel
Whether it’s to a teacher, lecturer or boss, expressing that you are a little nervous is always a good option. By telling them you are a little nervous, if you slip up, they will know it’s not from a lack of preparation, and the majority of teachers and lecturers will encourage you if you go blank. It’s crazy what a little smile or head nod of encouragement can do to boost your confidence!
4. Trial run
A trial run can always be helpful. Ask a friend, a relative or even a colleague if you could have 10 minutes of their time to run over the main points of your presentation. Having some encouragement that your presentation is good, will make you a little calmer going into the actual presentation!.
5. Deep breaths
An oldie but a goodie. Taking some deep breaths to focus your mind and calm your nerves is so important! Don’t believe us? Well, listen to a pro! Steph knows what she is talking about and even shares some breathing exercises you can do the next time you have a presentation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaqVaetcmNY
6. Have your safety blanket
Literally! Bring your safety blanket. Whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable. Whether it’s a bracelet, a hair clip or an actual blanket! Sneak it to school/college/work or if it’s on zoom, have it in your lap. It’s crazy how something so small can soothe you! Our Shona team even does this! One of us has a childhood blanket to sit on her lap, another brings her grandmother’s ring in her pocket, just to have that extra support when you need it.
Presenting and public speaking may never be something you will love or feel completely comfortable with, and that’s okay. But knowing how to make it easier on yourself is super important and we hope that our tips might help you out next time around!
If you have any tips you would like to share, please let us know x.
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