“I’m not that great at public speaking.”
“I always get nervous and freeze up on stage.”
“I’ll probably never be good at it.”
If you tell yourself you suck, you likely will.
Choose another path. Visualize success. Giving technical presentations, especially when speaking in front of a crowd, isn’t easy. Taking technical information and conveying it so that different audiences can understand it is no small feat. If you think you’re a poor public speaker, you’ll continue to be one. But if you actually put in the work and actually think of yourself as an effective public speaker, you’re more likely to become one.
An exercise that I like to use is I close my eyes, and I actually visualize myself doing well at the presentation that I’m going to give. I close my eyes, I take a deep breath, and I visualize how I want things to play out. I see myself walking up to the stage or the podium. I look out into the crowd. I see the people there waiting to hear me speak, and they look like they’re interested to hear what I have to say. I start my presentation. I hit all the points that I want to hit in the order I want to hit them. The people laugh at the appropriate parts of the presentation. They look engaged. I don’t look at the screen. I don’t look at the PowerPoint slides. I look at the audience.
By looking at the audience, I know that they’re waiting on bated breath. They are waiting to hear what I have to say next. Then, I finish my presentation and go into the Q&A part. People ask questions. I’m comfortable saying, “I don’t know,” to the questions that I don’t know, and to the ones that I do know, I answer them confidently. Then I say, “Thank you.” People clap, and I leave the stage or the podium. I open my eyes.
It has been very effective, at least for me, to visualize myself doing well as opposed to telling myself that I’m a poor public speaker. If you do this in concert with practicing your presentations before you give them, you will get better at public speaking.