How to Give a Better Presentation, Speech or Toast Without Throwing Up
Or picturing the audience in their underwear
Your fear of public speaking is real. But with a little bit of strategy (and, OK, a few deep breaths), you can charm any crowd.
Get There Early
Even 20 minutes gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with the room—and the technology. (There’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than relying on a PowerPoint presentation that’s supposed to open…but won’t.)
Memorize Your Opening Statement
Here’s the thing: You’re more likely to feel flustered at the start of your presentation versus the middle or the close. Why? Your brain needs a minute to acclimate to the space and the mic and the crowd (hello, with everyone’s eyeballs on you). By committing the first few sentences to memory, you’ll have your opening on autopilot no matter how distracted you get.
Make Eye Contact With Only One Person in the Audience
Instead of picturing the audience naked (seriously, what’s more distracting than that?), zero in on a friendly-looking face up front right when you begin. Pretend you’re talking only to her. Your speech will feel less like an examination and more like a conversation.
Eat a Light Snack with Protein
Sure, nerves are the fastest way to an upset stomach, but studies have shown that snacking on something light—like a handful of nuts—an hour before can boost mental alertness. Besides, a growling stomach would throw anybody off.
Ask for Room Temperature Water With Lemon
If your throat feels like it’s stuffed with cotton balls when you get nervous, ask your host for room temperature water with lemon before your speech begins (or plan ahead and bring it yourself). The citrus in the lemon acts as a lubricant, and it’s way better than repeatedly pausing to swig ice water, which can constrict your vocal cords.
Practice Your Power Stance
Remember what we said about arriving 15 minutes early? Use that time to hit the bathroom and put your most confident face forward. According to a recent TED Talk with psychologist Amy Cuddy, simply striking a “power pose” (stretching out your chest like you’re a superhero or placing your hands on your hips) a few minutes before a presentation can make you feel more relaxed and self-assured before you start.
Have a Plan in Place for Pauses
Nerves wreak havoc on even the most perfectly planned toast or speech. Instead of racing to get to the next point—and potentially losing your breath or forgetting what you were going to say—give yourself permission to work in a few pauses and figure out what you’ll do during that time. Maybe you’ll sip your lemon water. Maybe you’ll cue up the next PowerPoint screen. By building pauses in and knowing what you’ll do with them, you’re much less likely to stress.
Don’t Forget to Blast Some Beyoncé
The ultimate goal? To convert any pre-speech panic into enthusiasm. Right after you finish power posing (see above), it never hurts to cue up your iPhone with a song that pumps you up. So turn on some old-school “Bootylicious” and let’s do this.