Remember that your audience won’t be able to see how you’re really feeling on the inside. They know you’re human, and they don’t expect you to be perfect. And while some presenters report that their legs feel a bit wobbly on stage, peoples’ knees don’t really knock together.
If you’re concerned about feeling some last-minute stage fright, here are some techniques proven to help you manage through the moment:
Don’t forget to breathe. Take long, deep breaths. People literally forget to breathe, and this conscious process can help you relax.
Inject energy. Focus on projecting your voice, making big gestures, or moving around the stage. Energy is a great mask, and helps many speakers get past their initial fear of speaking. Go overboard with your levels of energy and passion, and you’ll appear confident and enthusiastic instead of nervous.
Get to know your audience. Many accomplished speakers take a few minutes to mingle with members of their audience in advance of their presentation. This serves several purposes: it gives the speaker an outlet for that nervous energy, it helps them connect with the group they’re talking to, and it offers them an opportunity to mention those interactions into their speech. (Example: “I was just talking with your southern sales manager, and she said…”) This also ensures that you will see some familiar faces when looking at the audience.
Focus on positive actions. A lot of speakers work really hard at avoiding mistakes, telling themselves “Don’t talk too fast”, “Don’t fidget” or “Don’t say ‘um’.” We recommend changing that mindset and reminding yourself what to DO instead of what to avoid. As you get psyched up, think about positive things you WILL do—“I’m going to pause until it hurts”, “Wait til they see me overdo the facial expression” or “I’ll turn up the volume to 11.”
Be yourself. You have heard this one from us many times: sometimes the hardest thing to do is to trust yourself to BE yourself. But that’s when we see people do their best work in front of an audience. Relax, and let your real self come through.