It was second grade, and I was asked to stand up in front of my class and talk about a current event. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I couldn’t catch my breath, but my teacher kept smiling and saying, “You can do this, just be you.”
The nerves that come with “public speaking” can be crippling and hinder not only your career growth but how you communicate and build confidence. Everyone has something they are working on, but the key to moving forward is diving in and doing the work! Presenting is like a muscle in your body – whether it’s your first time or your 100th, the more you do it, the stronger it gets.
And it all starts with breathing…wait, what??? It sounds so simple but it’s the first thing to go when your mind and nerves take over. Stop and focus on your breath for 10 seconds, right before you go on stage, camera or Zoom. When you breathe it lowers your heart rate and centers you. It will also slow you down, so instead of rushing through your content to “get it over with,” you can take your time so that people can better absorb your content.
And speaking of content – ask yourself a few questions. Why do you care, why should your audience care, and what do you want them to do or feel after your presentation? This is a great way to put your content in context, because if it doesn’t feel like you care, neither will your audience and you’ll lose them quickly. Bring your personality to the presentation and think of it as an engaging conversation rather than a verbal dump. If it’s just about the content – save yourself some time and send the presentation deck! But if you really want to move people, it’s about how you bring that content to life.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The only way to bring your content to life is to rehearse – A LOT! Out loud, in front of the mirror, to your pets, in the car and anywhere in between. The presenters you admire don’t just “wing it,” they rehearse it! Know it backwards and forwards but don’t rely on memorization alone. When you rehearse, you add muscle memory to the mix, helping you learn it better, faster and do more than recite – you’ll be able to adapt and think on your feet.
I didn’t know all of these things when I was in 2nd grade, but when I heard “just be you,” I realized I didn’t have to worry about what other people did. Overcoming anxieties and improving how you present is a process, but it starts with simple things like passion, breathing, slowing down and bringing your best “you.” We’re all different, and when presenting, we should embrace our differences rather than thinking there’s only one way to do it. There’s no “one size fits all” – be remarkable and be remembered for being you!