One of the secrets of successful presentations and public speaking is to gain your ease right at the beginning of the presentation – or beforehand. One of the best ways to gain your ease is to settle into your own authentic self, and speak from there. Try these strategies.
Arrive early. Greet your hosts, then excuse yourself. Have a few minutes in private before you approach the crowd. Calm yourself there, even if you are not nervous presenting in public. If you are nervous, create a meditative zone, take deep breaths, picture beautiful places, whatever works for you. Do not rehearse or plan. Just stop for a few minutes. A bit of time out of the eyes of others will always help.
If the gathering is set up to allow you to circulate among the audience easily, spend the time while folks are settling in to speak to some of them, one on one. Leave the microphone at the front, go into the crowd, and smile. Offer your hand – this opens your body which then opens your receptiveness and emotion. Welcome each person, introduce yourself simply (“Hi, I’m Joey, I’m the speaker today” or “Hi, I’m Joey, I’m the CEO, thanks for your interest in my company”) and ask them who they are and what they’d like to specially know about. Make direct contact. Shake hands. Look them in the eye with interest in what each one might want.
This accomplishes several things. It allows the folks in the audience to become your acquaintances. And this allows you to adjust your internal position that a) they are there to judge you or deny you, and/or b) you know more than they do and are superior to them. Both positions will interfere with your ease in speaking to them.
Just moments before you begin, during the host’s introduction, relax deeply. Go to your internal place and become calm, then… open yourself up. Actually, physically and emotionally, open up as if you are surrounded by people who care about you. If you do this, they will, because you allow them to see your authentic self.
Then, as you begin to speak, smile. Really smile to be in this place at this time. Access your simple gratitude that these folks want to spend some time listening to you. If you are speaking to a group, be generous in giving them your information. If you are pitching, which is asking not giving, be generous with your genuine interest in their partnering with you in your company and vision.
Identify a person in the room who seems open and friendly, and focus there. Make direct eye contact with that friendly person, and smile at him or her. From your position at the front of the room, reach out with your hand in a gesture of welcome, to open your body again, which will relax you and reassure your listeners at a primitive level. Then move on to make direct eye contact with another person in the room, and so on.
Then, in simple language, with clear short sentences (do not put in extraneous asides or too many extra clauses between your subject and verb and object, like this sentence does)…. Ahem…. Then, in simple language, say what you have come to say.
Begin by telling them who you are and why you care about sharing this information. If you are speaking, this gives a context to your authentic desire to share what you know. If you are pitching, this offers your potential partners an insight into the real person speaking to them, not just the pitch, the product, the ROI, the “what you want them to give you.” (How tired investors must be of that!).
This direct connection – your calm, your seeking out a few of the audience, your openness, your direct eye contact, your extending your hand and opening your physical and personal self to them – this is more important than the subject or subtext of your message and information.
People come together to be witnessed, to share, to learn, to know something or someone they didn’t know yesterday. Otherwise they would stay home. In this moment, they have come together to know you – your real self, your valuable information or offer, a new part of the world they hadn’t seen before. They come out of their caves with hope. It is only polite, and kind, to welcome that hope with your genuine self. From that place of connection, your presentation cannot fail.