Improving Your Presentation Skills: Calming Your Nerves So You Can Succeed In Public Speaking

Public speaking is rarely what we want it to be. More often than not fear, sweat and anxiety overwhelm us, leaving us shaking like a five-year old in front of a reprimanding teacher. The uneasiness that you experience before and during public speaking can make your presentation a big mess.

Don’t let a churning stomach and sweaty palms disrupt, or even worse, destroy your speech. While it’s not possible to completely eliminate your nervousness, improving your presentation skills is still possible once you learn a few tactics to control your nervousness.

Understand How Nervousness Manifests Itself

Unless you know what ruins your speech, how can you work on improving your presentation skills? The strange thing about speech nervousness is that it can take on different faces. It can be expressed through physical uneasiness, but it can also interfere with your language. People who are anxious about their speech often stammer, shake uncontrollably or have a squeaky voice, messing up their speech.

This is often a self-fulfilling prophecy: you focus so much on what might go wrong that you eventually make it happen. However, if you understand why and how your nervousness is expressed then you can easily learn to tame it and start improving your presentation skills.

Break Free From Your Nervousness

The first thing you should do is change your attitude towards public speaking. Understanding how deeply nervousness interferes with your public speaking success will give you a good perspective on how important it is to overcome it.

Control, Don’t Try To Eliminate

People set themselves up for failure when they try to completely eliminate their uneasiness. Even the most experienced, top-notch speakers will tell you they’re still feeling that subtle (or not so subtle) nervousness before their speech. And it’s fine too.

The key to adequately calming your nerves is to realize you cannot entirely and irreversibly eliminate them. Remember, improving your presentation skills means minimizing nervousness impact, not banishing it completely.

Be Prepared

Being fully prepared for you speech will sooth your nerves. You gain confidence when you know you can anticipate and handle any incidents during your speech. Get familiar with the speech room and its equipment. Network with your audience to remind yourself that they’re only human beings and not really that scary after all. Practice your speech until there’s no room for mistakes. Have alternatives for cases when something goes wrong, such as a forgotten point, a confusing conclusion, or a slide show being stuck.

Just Breathe

Being conscious of your breathing a few minutes before your speech will calm your nerves and give your lungs plenty of air to release all the built-up tension accumulated over the last few days. Deep breathing will improve your lung power and make you more alert thanks to better brain oxygenation.

Relax Your Mouth Muscles

Have you ever wondered why cats always seem so peaceful? They meow constantly. While you shouldn’t walk around your preparation area meowing around other speakers, you can still master the silent meow. This is something halfway between a yawn and a meow movement. Placing your hand over your mouth will conceal your trick of relaxing your mouth muscles for better articulation and freedom.

Should Presentation Training Be a Part of Soft Skills Training Programs?

The presentation skills training program is a key component of Soft Skills Training and Development for any working professional. It is designed to help professionals achieve significant career growth by leaving a memorable impression with their audiences consistently. The focus of this program is on two aspects – how to create an impressive presentation and how to present this information powerfully.

Why Presentation Training?

There are numerous reasons, but the following two reasons are the most critical:

  • Flawless presentation skills are the key to a career graph poised for constant upward growth, and
  • As a presenter, you don’t just need to present facts and figures, you also need to be engaging, vibrant and capture your audience’s attention.

Clarity of diction and non-verbal skills are just as important as the grades you graduate with. While you might not like the idea of standing up in front of a crowd, as a professional, you’ll need to, sooner or later.

The idea is to project a confident and effervescent personality with the ability to connect with people at large. But it’s not a skill always inherent in people. It requires a blend of leadership skills and a conscious focus on progressing beyond limiting mindsets. This is the precise reason why most B-schools hire services of soft skill training companies to train their graduates.

The Need for Soft Skills Development

Very often, we see that unhealthy mindsets with a penchant for negative thinking have a direct bearing on a slew of life conditions, including job performance. However, what also gets in the way of success is a lack of awareness of our own reactions and learned behavior.

Let’s look at a simple question to which many don’t know the answer. The question is, “How is pop corn made?” The answer – in every kernel of corn there is a drop of water. When heat is applied to the corn, the water inside the corn starts to increase in temperature and vaporizes and expands in space. This causes the corn to burst open, thus forming popcorn. When we apply the same concept with regards to our mindsets when under pressure, what emerges is indicative of the mindsets that we nurse on the inside of us. The ability to handle challenges calmly and constructively cannot be developed if we harbor negative and limiting mindsets. The behaviors, which are a result of our mindsets, are what we call as soft skills. Hence working on specific types of soft skills has a direct impact on our mindset. For example, when you are conducting a presentation, the manifesting behavior of confidence or nervousness is what is referred to as ‘soft skills’ and our existing mindsets cause this behavior.

Most Soft Skills Training Programs focus on techniques that enable the participants to create empowering mindsets that help them to present with confidence and charisma as the Indian education system does not provide too many opportunities for public speaking in the curriculum.

Make Your Presentation Attractive

You take great efforts in researching for your presentation and then even a simple thing like wrong choice of font color can mar it. Choosing the right color scheme and background as it is utmost necessary for it to be audience friendly and pleasant to look at.

The common mistakes that are made while selecting contrast for your slides. Here is a list of faux pas you can avoid:

Color of the background same/similar to the font color: The presentation should be such that audience should be able to read it without any hassle. If the font is blue color and background is black color; or light pink color against white background

Too much bold/bright colors: Slightly dark colors not only give a classy look to the slides but also are gentle on the eyes. Too many bright or bold colors can actually give viewers a headache. If you do not know how to combine colors or which colors to use you may end up using completely wrong colors.

Applying fancy effects: Equipped with many tools and no knowledge of application, presenters enthusiastically apply variety of effects to the slides. Sometimes fill effects that are used when file transcends are darker to lighter background, resulting into the text merging with the backdrop owing to the similarity of the brightness level.

Now that we have demarcated the issues while choosing the right font and backdrop, we know what to avoid. Let us now focus on the right method and applications that can further enhance our presentation. Selecting the right colors make for a successful and easy to read presentation.

Select extreme colors, you can either go in for darker colors or light shades, using mid-tones should be completely avoided. Once this is done and sorted out, everything else falls in place.

Once you have identified the background color, then the next step is to choose the font color. While doing this, keep a simple thing in mind, the presentation is for an audience so every effort and endeavors should be directed towards making it easy on eyes in terms of convenient to read from a distance too. You can use light colors on dark background or darker font on light background (black font against white). If you follow this basic rule and apply it to all your presentations you do not have to worry about other factors like intensity of the lighting in conference room and other stuff.

While reading, you will realize that the above mistakes and solutions are so simple to follow and understand. But at times we fail to keep in mind that what matters the most is the viewers and all we need to do is place ourselves in their shoes and accordingly plan the slides.

All it takes is few seconds to choose the right colors and your presentation looks far more visually appealing to one and all.

In a nutshell, it is for the speaker to decide whether to make the audience irritable with wrong color scheme or give a simple but effective presentation with a touch of sophistication!