A famous study found that people's No. 1 fear is public speaking—No. 2 is death. What a terrible reality, that someone could be so terrified of talking to a group of people that they'd literally rather be dead. It's especially saddening when you consider that for so many of us, public speaking—at work, in our community organizations, at a friend's wedding—is just a fact of life.
Speaking in front of a group doesn't have to be so scary. Use these tips to relax yourself before and during a presentation:
1. Drink room-temperature water. If you're nervous before a speech, chances are you’re going to get thirsty. For obvious reasons, don't reach for alcohol or coffee. Also, don't have ice water; it can make your throat constrict and make it hard to speak. Try a glass of room'temperature water—with a lemon, if possible.
2. Yawn. Yawning relieves tension by sending your body the signal that you're tired, which sets the body into action trying to relax you.
3. Smile. Smile before and during a speech. In addition to being a great way to connect with your audience and help them to relax, smiling—like yawning—can change your physiology. It's hard to feel tension when you're smiling.
4. Familiarize yourself with the room beforehand. Go to the presentation room early. Even if it's just a conference room in your company's office, it's still a good idea to go in alone, take your position where you'll be giving your speech, and get a sense of the room. You'll feel more comfortable when you give your presentation.
5. Get your strength from the people in front.
These are the people who are eager to be involved. Make eye contact with them, involve them (although not to the exclusion of the rest of the room), and they'll give you the energy and positive feedback you need.
Nervous about speaking to a group? Afraid you won't be any good? Just keep in mind that someone thought enough of you to call a room full of people together to hear what you have to say. You're the expert, and your colleagues know it. Keep that in mind when you start thinking about how nervous you feel.
Robbie Hyman is a professional copywriter who’s written thousands of pages of marketing and corporate communications materials for businesses of all types. He's written business workshops on sales, communication skills, and time management that have been delivered to thousands of professionals. He's also ghostwritten published articles, CEO speeches, and other materials for doctors, leading technology entrepreneurs, and a Nobel-prize winner in Medicine. Contact him at robbie@SynergyCopywriting.com.