If you have a big presentation project to do in the next few weeks, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to improve your speaking skill. At this point you just need to make sure you deliver the presentation to the best of your current ability. Nervousness and mental stress can interfere with that delivery, so here are some tips for conquering your fears & stress in the short-term:
1. They won’t notice
I’ve listened to speeches where speakers told everyone how nervous they were. Until that moment, I had no idea they were nervous and I’m sure nobody else noticed either. Think of any nervousness, stress you feel as being your private secret and most of the time it will be.
2. Rehearse like a maniac
When I have an important presentation project, I memorize the key sections word for word. I practice in front of a mirror several times before I go on stage. Rehearsal is extremely important because it will keep you from forgetting your lines in a panic. Unnecessary stress is minimized.
3. Unfreeze the audience with humor
If the situation allows it and you are funny in conversations, try starting with a joke or a bit of humor. If you can start the audience laughing before getting into more serious matters, that will dissolve much of your fright. I wouldn’t use humor if I didn’t feel comfortable with it, so don’t push the jokes if it doesn’t feel natural to do so.
4. Look good
I am certainly not going to become a male model overnight, but staying groomed and dressing somewhat more formally than the rest of the audience can do wonders to boost your confidence. Worrying about being under-dressed or not having shaved that morning can make any stage fright worse.
5. Scope out the environment
Come to your presentation room a day before and look around. Where will people be sitting? What potential problems might come up for speaking or displaying information? Be comfortable in the room you are about to speak in.
6. Talk to the audience
If you don’t know your audience already, have a chat with a few members before you speak. This can give you a bit of extra familiarity with the audience by knowing you have a few acquaintances in the crowd of strangers. Thus speaking stress will be reduced to the minimal.
7. Memorize the sticky spots
During your rehearsal, there will probably be one or two places that you trip over. Reword and memorize these sections so they don’t drag you down during your final speech.
8. Accept the fear, don’t fight it
The worst thing you can do when you’re nervous and stress are to notice your own anxiety and start worrying about that too. Just accept any nervousness you feel just as you would accept that the carpet is blue or the walls are white. Trying to force yourself to calm down or hide signs of nervousness can backfire and make your problem worse.