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Presentation and Public Speaking Skills: Top 10 Tools and Tips to Tackle Nerves

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      Whether you’re a seasoned trainer or just beginning, strong presentation and public speaking skills provides a firm foundation from which to share your knowledge and passion. Here in the Welsh Women’s Aid training team we offer a variety of different training packages and recently we’ve developed and delivered a Presentation and Public Speaking Skills full day session to our Survivors Empowering and Educating Services (SEEDS) group members.

      This session specifically looks at tools and techniques to help identify and tackle nerves, considering the format and layout of your presentation, the messaging and what it is you want people to be left with. There are significant cross overs with training and seeing as none of us are brimming with confidence all of the time we thought it would be useful to share some of these tips with you.

      Our Top 10 Tools and Tips to Tackle Nerves

      1. Nerves versus Excitement: If you thought about the characteristics of excitement and those of nerves you’d draw an awful lot of similarities between the two. Nerves before training are completely natural and not at all indicative of your ability to deliver an interesting and engaging session. Rather than focus on your nerves, change the language of nerves to excitement and embrace rather than shut them down.
      2. Practice, practice, practice: Remember the rule of the Ps – Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance! The more time you spend going over your content and the technology the better you will feel when delivering. A good tip is to spend a bit more time going over the first few slides so you can commit them to memory, which will help prop you up when you get started and get you through those initial few minutes of nerves.
      3. Step into the shoes of a confident person: It’s a misconception that you can only deliver training or do any form of public speaking or presenting when you feel fully confident to be able to do so. Many of us are simply faking it until we make it (more on that later). In fact, much like how you can tackle nerves, you can mentally ‘step into the shoes of a confident person’. This theory is based on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), which involves considering how you communicate with both yourself and your audience. It effectively focuses on the power of positive thought to enable yourself to project confidence. So, just before you start your session imagine stepping into the shoes of a confident person. How would they be standing? How would they speak? How would they manage the space around them?
      4. Make eye contact: You’re more than likely not the only one who may feel nervous at the beginning of a training session. Some learners may not know anyone else, they may be in a new environment and never forget that everyone is dealing with something we know nothing about so a little kindness and connection can go a long way. As people start to arrive, make a point of introducing yourself to them and strike up a brief conversation. This will help diffuse their tension and yours. When you begin your training, make sure you extend the same level of eye contact to everyone in the room.
      5. Don’t dress to sweat: Excess nerves (or excitement) tends to cause excess sweat. Training rooms are notoriously warm thanks to all the energetic learning going on (or a lack of air conditioning), so be mindful of that when selecting your clothes for the day. Some trainers like to stick to a seasoned training ‘uniform’, others are far more relaxed. You need to do whatever is most comfortable for you, however think about avoiding colours that tend to show sweat up more such as grey and blue.
      6. Dry mouth: This sounds wildly simple, however we’ve lost count of the times we’ve shown up to deliver training without our own water bottle. If you’ve done the same thing, try and remember to have a glass of water nearby and keep it topped up through the day. Dry mouth and dehydration can certainly contribute to how drained you may feel when you’re done.
      7. Shake it off: Nerves have a tendency to creep out of your brain and down your arms into your fingertips, which can mean you shake when you’re holding bits of paper, a pen, or anything really. This can be hugely distracting for you as a trainer and challenging to stop once it’s started. If you know this happens to you, try shaking your hands before you get started, or rather than clutching sheets of paper, place them in a folder so it feels more solid. If you’re standing behind a lecturn or desk you can also press your hands down gently to stop them from trembling.
      8. Don’t stand on the back foot: When we feel intimidated in any situation we tend to physically step back. It is human nature to want to protect ourselves from an unnerving situation, however, as a trainer, you need to be the lion (or lioness) rather than the gazelle. By this we mean you need to dominate the space. This is also a great way of physically changing your body language to break that cycle of nerves by placing yourself firmly on the front foot and claiming your position at the head of the room.
      9. Non-verbal communication: Body language counts for 55% of communication, whereas tone of voice counts for 38%. The impact of your training is not based on what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it. Think about the best training you’ve received, or a speech or presentation that really stood out for you. What was it that gripped you? You can also practice your delivery to reflect on your own body language. A good way to increase your impact is to physically open up your arms and hands while you’re talking.
      10. Play to your personal strengths: Are you passionate? Academic? Friendly? Funny? Every single trainer has different skill sets and strengths. We can all learn from each other, however the most successful trainers identify their own strengths and use them.

      We’re going to end this blog with a link to a Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy, who spoke specifically about ‘Faking it til you make it’ and the power of body language in communication:

      Sit back and see what you think and if you want to send us any feedback or tips of your own then please do. In the meantime have a great couple of weeks.


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