The truth in the corporate world is that presentations are often evaluations of you and your work. It's therefore not uncommon to feel anxious about speaking in public, whether the speaking consists of a formal presentation or an informal report.
We worry that we will freeze, unable to speak. We worry that we will forget what we intended to say or will garble our words. An especially strong fear may cause one to worry about fainting or becoming ill. The good news is that the fear seldom has extreme consequences. The better news is that you can learn to manage it.
While you may never become fearless when it comes to speaking in public, you can transform the energy of fear into improved effectiveness. Physiologically, that energy is produced by heightened emotion and a sudden increase in physical strength as more epinephrine (adrenalin) and other hormones pump through your body. But it need not cause paralysis or panic; when you improve your delivery practices, you can use that energy productively.
When you begin to speak, take a deep breath. Breathing deeply from your diaphragm transfers some of that excess energy to your voice, enriching it as you vary tone, pitch, and volume. Focus your eyes on someone toward the back of the room and begin. As you speak, address one person at a time. Deliver an entire thought to one person before moving your eyes to the next. Continue consciously breathing to keep the adrenalin flow smooth and available.
To further reduce tension, move as you speak, and gesture when appropriate. Keep both steady and purposeful. You do not want to pace quickly back and forth but instead to take a few steps, stop, and speak. Try to time each movement to coincide with a change in content or emphasis.
But your communication strategy should begin long before you stand up to speak. Anxiety may grow from a lack of confidence. To build comfort and control, plan what you will say. Early on, analyze your audience, determining the characteristics that will affect its understanding and acceptance of your message. Shape and prioritize your messages; locate supporting evidence. Decide which visuals will strengthen your presentation and get them ready.
Then rehearse. Rehearse out loud repeatedly so that you internalize the meaning of your message. Create a variety of ways to express that meaning. Practice until you are comfortable with the order of your messages and main points. That comfort translates into confidence.
Integral to transforming your fear is to visualize yourself succeeding. Imagine success. Replace the negative with a positive; picture stepping up to deliver a message to a particular audience for a particular purpose. Replay the success in your mind, filling in the details. Your preparation will establish an almost unconscious set of directions available to you when you speak in public.
The best speakers don't eradicate fear. Instead, they devise strategies to regulate it and use its energy in positive ways. They transform its physiological aspects to vitalize delivery. They address its cognitive and emotional aspects through preparation and visualization to increase control and confidence. Public speaking is indeed something they can manage—and so can you, evaluation and all.