PRESENTING AT A CONFERENCE
The fear of speaking in public (glossophobia) is ranked ahead of death for most people. It is closely related to making a fool of yourself in front of a crowd, hence speaking to people publicly creates quivers and queasy stomachs for most all of us. For some, they just love the attention, and even making a blooper on stage does not faze them; they move on.
Practice really helps to ease the jitters. Knowing what you will be doing and saying.
On The Big Bang Theory, in one episode, Wolowiz is chosen to toss out the first baseball because he is an astronaut. He knows his limits with his tossing arm, so he employs a MARS Rover to deliver the ball to the batter. His nerves are a bit shattered, but he is a wreck in front of the crowd when he discovers the Rover moves at a snails’ pace. This annoys the crowd and he is loudly booed.
Humiliated, he realises he should have tested out the idea before going into centre field. All in the name of comedy of course and it is a very funny and well-played scene; but it emphasizes the need to rehearse before going on stage.
Your apprehensions will not dissipate just because you practised, but you will feel better and in turn relax your audience to the point of their heightened enjoyment of your presentation whether just to an audience or to a televised live stream.
The key points to remember are being well dressed and groomed. You simply feel better about yourself. Check a mirror or ask a confidant – “How do I look?”. Never drink too many liquids prior to going on stage, because nerves tend to exaggerate the need for a bathroom break and that cannot happen once you walk on. Under bright lights, it is tough to see faces, but do your best to look around as if talking one to one. In fact, you are! We all hear differently what is being said when we are listening. Take breath pauses. They help to calm you and the audience gets a second to digest what you have just said. Tell stories where at all possible. We are raised on stories as children and that enjoyment stays with us into adulthood. Speak convincingly. Not as easy as it sounds and may require practise, but people admire anyone on stage that has conviction of their text. If using a visual aid such as PowerPoint or Keynote, do not read verbatim. The audience can do that. Use points you can expand on instead of sentences. (Pictures too enhance the audience experience!).
A teleprompter is a tremendous help, but very few of us ever have that luxury. You know that they are being used on television and live streams by the pros, Presidents and Prime Ministers. If you do get one, you still need practice. If you have ever watched an awards show, you have witnessed celebrities butcher lines on a prompter, because they likely did not know or rehearse the lines they had to do. It is awkward and leads to embarrassment and likely more mistakes along the way.
Try not to lean, slouch or grip the podium as it may impede your diaphragm.
It is okay to think of all members of the audience as being naked, to help ease your tension; but that old adage might just be more distracting for you and your train of thought just might not ever make it into the station.