The nervousness that you feel when you’re about to deliver a speech need not hamper your style. In fact, the way you respond can either mitigate your jitters or make them worse.
Most speakers react to mounting anxiety by suffocating their personality. Their normally engagingfade and they come across as stiff, formal and uncomfortable.
People who tend to gesture freely and speak with animation in small groups can turn into robotic figures in front of a big audience. You can tell these speakers because they appear frozen in fright and steeped in confusion. They don’t seem to know what to do with their hands, where to stand or where to look.
Listeners have wide arms of acceptance for speakers who seem real. As long as you’re authentic, you can get away with occasional stammering and on-stage blunders. But if you impersonate a scared, wayward zombie, you lose your margin for error.
To radiate authenticity, loosen your facial muscles and rest your arms at your sides. To emphasize a key word or phrase, punctuate it with your voice inflection and body language. Avoid jamming your hands in your pockets or clasping them in a fig-leaf position or you will limit your range of expression.
You can endear yourself to your audience by alluding to your jitters. Tell a quick story about a time when you were nervous—and how you overcame adversity.
If you’re worried about straying off track, organize your presentation in threes. Armed with a simple three-part road map of what you want to cover, you can talk to your audience without glancing repeatedly at notes.