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Chris Scheeren knows a thing or two about confidence. For the past 20 years, he's helped half a million people unleash their presentation skills, speak with confidence, and command attention.
On this week's Motivational Mondays, Chris shares the secrets behind what it truly takes to deliver a great presentation, and how to get back on track when your presentation doesn’t quite go according to plan.
KNOW YOUR SPEECH, BUT NEVER MEMORIZE IT
Have you ever had to present in front of your class, or jump on stage to talk to a crowd? What went through your mind? How did you feel?
We've all been there. Freaked out. Overcome with nervousness — all eyes on us as we begin our speech. The heart starts racing, mouth gets dry, throat gets tight. It can be unsettling, and for many, it’s a lifelong fear.
But as it turns out, it’s completely normal — millions of people feel anxious when publicly speaking. And even better news… there are steps you can take to understand this fear, address it, and power through it to become a more confident presenter.
One of the main pieces of advice is to know your material and the message you want to convey, but never to try to memorize your presentation. Chris explains, "when we're memorizing verbatim, we reveal it with our eyes. Every time we have to transition, we look up to the right, and we sound like a fourth grader trying to do the preamble to the Constitution in Social Studies."
But, the caveat is to memorize the first 30-60 seconds of your speech inside out. If you do that, you’re reducing your level of anxiety and starting your conversation with confidence.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Another piece of advice? Break the ice by getting a reaction. Share a joke, get a laugh — get comfortable with your audience, and before you know it, it’s no longer a “presentation” … now it feels like you’re just talking with your friends.
Chris also encourages deep breaths, off-mic, before starting and keeping a mindset of knowing it's okay not to be perfect when publicly speaking. Just as we are not always perfect in our typical day-to-day life when communicating, public speaking is no different. In some ways, there is even an advantage to public speaking because we usually have time to prepare beforehand. Still, Chris's most easily applied rule to public speaking is to have your opening thoughts ready to go ... and "don't start until you're ready."
Being "ready" also means staying conscious of what you may be doing subconsciously, such as nervous movements and fidgeting. This serves no purpose other than to distract your audience from your message. Chris likens it to the audience watching a "pinball" as you move all around as you speak, "So to calm those nerves: deep deep breath. When I get to the front of the room I’m going to drop anchor, lock both feet in.” Chris further explains “Always keep your chin up. When we're nervous, our chin drops 15 to 20 degrees, tightens my throat, makes me breathy." Your body language can be a gamechanger.
NO ONE WANTS YOU TO FAIL. EMBRACE MISTAKES.
When you stumble during a presentation, that's okay. Chris encourages speakers to embrace those moments of imperfection and even have fun with them! "Some of my favorite moments in a presentation are the mistakes, right? The joke that doesn't land. So great, have some fun, make fun of yourself. It's okay. People are rooting for you — unless they're just bizarre sadists. Nobody wants you to fail."
Often public speakers go into a presentation with a "doomsday" perspective that the audience is intimidating. With that mindset, instinctively, many of us default to self-deprecating defense mechanisms or "crutches" at the start of our speech to counter what we have already perceived will be an inevitable failure.
Such examples might be opening with fluff lines like "I don't do speeches often," or "I haven’t really prepared, let’s see how it goes." Chris warns to avoid this language at all costs because though it may make you feel comfortable in the moment, it greatly diminishes your self-confidence, not to mention the credibility you lose with your audience as an authority on the topics you’re presenting.
Chris says that the best trick is to shift your mindset and reframe your perspective from "I have to present” to "I get to" present, and it is an honor to be asked to do so.
And always remember, we are all a work in progress, and perfection is not the goal. Follow these tips, put yourself in the spotlight, and you will give the best presentation of your life.
Listen to the bonus episode to learn if anyone can become a great speaker, and discover how to walk through every door with confidence.