Public speaking: a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of otherwise confident people is something that seems natural for some, and feels like punishment for others. Still, public speaking is something that we all need to get comfortable with in our profession of choice.
More and more, accountants are serving in an advisory role for companies, and that job responsibility is not likely going away any time soon. As a student who myself wondered when public speaking would ever become comfortable, I thought I would share some of the reframing tools I have used to help me survive (and maybe even enjoy) presentations.
The audience wants you to succeed
From my experience, people have interesting things to say; you just have to listen! For the audience, this is a chance to gain a new perspective on a topic they might not know much about. Since you are the presenter, you have put the time and effort in to become well-informed on the topic you are covering. As the subject-matter expert, the audience is not actively looking to point out your faults as much as they are seeking to understand where you are coming from as the presenter.
Use that idea to your advantage in developing your presentation and see if that makes the preparation process more enjoyable for you. Positive thinking allows you to claim the power to decide how you will approach the situation and shows that you are willing to make the best of the uncomfortable circumstances.
You can turn your anxiety into excitement
Nervousness is a natural physiological response to standing in front of a crowd. We are human after all! How anxiety affects you is entirely up to you, though! Feeling nervous typically makes people more alert and aware of their surroundings. This is something that can be used to your advantage when delivering a message to an audience.
Try asking yourself: “Why am I nervous?” Oftentimes, the reasons we feel nervous are fleeting and will not be relevant in the long-term. If you think about the bigger picture of your purpose in delivering your presentation, you can form an idea of why your message matters to you. Ultimately, uncovering your motivations behind public speaking allows you to take a step back and realize that your presentation is tied to meaningful goals that you set for a reason, and that can propel you to envision a positive outcome.
Think of the value you are adding
Rather than wishing your presentation to be over, consider why you have been asked to speak in front of an audience in the first place. Chances are, you have completed the time-consuming part of doing your research to prepare for a speech. You want your preparation and knowledge to shine. The best way to do that is to forget about how many people you are speaking to and to think about what are the main desired takeaways for them.
If you take your research further and consider who your audience is, you can gauge what their objectives are from sitting in on your presentation and cater the message to them. When you do this, you are ensuring that they feel they have gained something from the experience and you are adding value in the process.
This is a learning opportunity
Just as the audience wants to learn from you, you should keep an open mind about learning from the audience, too! Think about it – which classes have been the most enjoyable for you? Chances are, the most memorable classes are those that you actively participated in.
Whether your reason for participating in class discussions was to pass the time or because you were genuinely interested in the topics mentioned, this is the type of environment an effective presentation inspires. As a speaker, you should leave the door open for audience interaction and signal to them that you care and want to learn from them as much as they can learn from you.
Are you uncomfortable? That is great—that is a sign that you are growing as an individual and stretching your limits in a positive way! By reframing your thoughts and giving them a positive spin, you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective and confident public speaker. Like with anything else, believe that you can and you’re halfway there!