If you have ever struggled to give a presentation or even speak in front of a small group of colleagues, you’re not alone. More than two-thirds of the population suffers from speech anxiety, and while the level of fear ranges, it can be crippling for some.
Though there is no cure-all for speech anxiety, there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t freeze up when the time comes.
Know the material.
While mistakes do happen, the best thing you can do to avoid them is to know your material. You can’t expect to rehearse once a few minutes before your presentation and knock it out of the park. Like everything else, public speaking takes practice, so make sure when the time comes, you know your speech inside and out.
Take a breather.
Starting your presentation the minute you’re in front of the room is a recipe for disaster. Always remember to take a breath before speaking to calm your nerves and gather your thoughts. This is not to say you’ll need a full five minutes to yourself—there are people waiting, after all—but a few deep breaths are essential.
Eye contact is key.
It seems intimidating to have to look someone in the eye during a presentation, but direct eye contact shows confidence, and, in turn, that you know your stuff. Try to scan the room as much as possible. Locking eyes with a few audience members will help keep them entertained and engaged with what you have to say.
Slow and steady wins the race.
The fear of a presentation can not only make your heart race and your palms sweat, but can also quicken the pace of your voice—which will make it difficult to gauge just how quick you’re speaking.
Perfection is impossible.
No one is perfect. Even the most seasoned public speakers slip up once in a while, and you can, too. If you make a mistake or forget your place, take a moment for yourself to gather your thoughts, and continue on. It’s tough not to be overwhelmed in these moments, but mistakes happen. What’s important is that you push through.