Almost everyone gets nervous when they have to speak in public and that’s not a bad thing. Our nerves can give us extra energy and that can improve our performance. Unfortunately, the nervousness can also become obsessive and distract us as we try to prepare for the talk. To avoid that distraction, there are three questions you should be asking yourself;
Why Am I Doing This?
The answer to this question is not “because I was asked to” or “my boss told me to”. Even if those things are true, look beyond them to find something that benefits you. Will the speaking opportunity bring you more clients? Will it advance your career? Will it build confidence to help you overcome a fear of public speaking?
Make your speaking opportunity personal. Give yourself a goal or objective to measure your performance by. Do you want to get five new contacts out of the 200 people in the audience? Do you want to get invited back to speak again. Is there a thought or a call to action that you want to plant in the minds of your audience?
Who Am I Talking To?
Your speaking opportunity is all about you but the speech needs to be all about the audience. The more you know about the people you are speaking to, the better you can tailor your presentation to them.
Well before the day of your talk, ask questions about the background and experience of the people who will be there and make sure your speech will reach most of who ever is in the room. Don’t show off by speaking over their heads and don’t talk down to them either. Nothing is more boring than a canned speech that has no relevance to the audience.
What Do They Need To Hear?
When you give a presentation, it is really half of a conversation that you are having with your audience. If you have done your homework, you can tailor your talk to make sure it provides maximum benefit to the people hearing it.
I once spoke to a conference of restaurant managers so naturally when I talked about crisis communication I used examples of food-handling problems and customer service issues. I have also spoken to the forest industry and used entirely different stories.
Don’t just give a speech to hear yourself talk, try to make it meaningful to the people in the audience who have committed to listen to you. That means you should think about their situation and customize your presentation to provide the most value for that target audience.
Being nervous is natural but if you focus on these three questions you’ll have far less to be nervous about.