Presenting can be scary. Whether you are giving a speech, doing stand-up, or reading a creative writing piece you wrote, it can be nerve-wracking. Almost everyone gets stage fright, even actors. But, knowing some helpful tips can get you through your presentation, and help you deliver it with a greater sense of confidence.
Try these tips:
Breathe. This is a classic tip, but it's a good one. Running out of breath when you are performing can dishearten you, and it can decrease the quality of your performance. You need to make sure you are breathing throughout your presentation. Practice and look through your writing. Mark off natural places you can pause in your presentation. Use that pause to breathe. Just make sure you aren't gasping — that will distract your audience.
Posture. If you're nervous, it will show, although there is some truth to the phrase, "fake it until you make it." By standing tall, pushing your shoulders back, and holding your head high, you will look more confident, and thus feel more confident. Plus, it will help with your projection.
Voice. Often we're either too quiet, or too loud; our voice is too breathy, or our voice is cracking because of nerves. In this case, practice makes perfect. Practice in the space you will be presenting in, and have someone stand in the back of the room. Project the best you can, and ask the person if they can hear you, and if your voice is at a normal pitch. Remember, you want to project, not yell. Gather your breath from your stomach, and that deep breath will help your voice carry. Plus, by breathing from your stomach, you will avoid sounding breathy. Making sure you open your mouth wide enough will also help with your projection, and with clarity.
Moisture. Some presenters get dry lips or a dry throat and have troubles with volume. Others, when they speak for a long time, will start to get too much moisture building up in their mouth, making for an unpleasant speaking voice. Practice before you perform. Learn what happens to you. Prepare yourself with lip balm and water. If you get too much moisture, make sure you drink water to clear your mouth, and when you are speaking, find natural places where you can pause to swallow. For moisture, another tip is to make sure you open your mouth wide enough when you speak — the air will help dry your mouth out.
Feet. Someone who is constantly shifting or moving across the stage while they are talking is very distracting to the audience. Many people move or shift their weight as a nervous tick. Try to plant your feet shoulder-width apart, and only move them if it is necessary to the performance. Practice your performance a day or two before in front of a mirror — watch your feet. Learn what your feet do, and practice standing still.
Eyes. If your eyes are darting all over the place, you will distract your audience. Yet, if you don't look at your audience at all, you might bore them! You want to find a middle ground with your eyes. If you are reading a paper, memorize your writing well enough so that you would feel comfortable enough to look up occasionally. That way, you won't be nervous about losing your place, and you can make eye contact with the audience. Pick a pattern for your eyes — such as gazing from left to right, or just looking up to the center. That way, your eyes won't be sporadic.
If you don't have a paper, and you're presenting to a very large crowd (over 30-40 people) you can just pick one to three points you will look at — and it doesn't have to be people. You can pick a point above the heads of the audience to look at, or a flag in the corner of the room. This strategy is often good for those with stage fright.
Papers. Rustling your papers can be distracting for the audience; plus, having your face buried in your papers hinders your volume. You want to make sure you have a firm, two-handed grip on your papers. Printing on thicker paper can help stop rustling. Make sure your papers are held away from your face, but not directly in front of it. Chest level is a good place to hold your papers so they don't hinder your voice, or hide your face. Just don't hold them in front of the mic!
Mic. No one likes it when there is a sudden screech of feedback from a mic, or when someone doesn't speak loudly enough. Generally, to avoid loud accidental sounds, and to avoid being too quiet, you want a mic placed at a 45 degree angle from your mouth one step away from your body. Speak clearly, and loudly. Practicing with your mic a day before will help you get comfortable using it.
Mistake. It happens. We all make mistakes when we perform. Though, there's one thing you have to remember when performing: you know you made a mistake, but the audience doesn't have to know. They've never heard your piece before — they don't know that wasn't supposed to happen. If you make a mistake, act natural. Don't make an upset face, don't make an "oops" sound, and don't say that you messed up. Pretend nothing happened, and just keep going. If you pretend that it was supposed to happen, the audience will think it was supposed to happen.
[Creative Commons Lisence: Kaykaybarrie, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaylajanebarrie/ ]