Look at it as an opportunity to be of service explains Kemetia Foley
I remember the first time I sang solo. It was 7th grade at Alice Deal Junior High in Washington, DC. Someone, maybe my music teacher? convinced me to sing at the school talent show.
According to my late father’s account of the event, I was so nervous that I walked to the front of the stage, sat down and sang the entire song, staring cross-eyed into the crowd. When he also mentioned I was off-key for most of the song as well, I was mortified. It didn’t stop me. Well, it stopped me from singing on stage, but not from talking on stage.
Each time I get on a stage or walk to the front of the classroom, I’m still nervous, but I also have nervous energy flowing through me as well. I have learned over the years some really important ways to work with my nervous energy and get to the important piece off knowledge-sharing.
- Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this? Be honest. Do you want the attention? Do you believe you have something to share? Do you want to lead others to a better understanding of your point of view? Is it because you are being paid? Knowing WHY you are presenting will help you focus on the how.
- Do you know your audience? Have you really taken the time to think about the audience background? Why is the audience there? And, what about the audience that is there because they have to be there, not because they want to be there? How will you need to adjust your presentation to adapt to the culture?
- Practice. Practice. Know your presentation. Prepare yourself for interruptions and questions. Get a sense of the timing and flow while you practice. Often times I’ll tell my husband that I’ll be upstairs talking to myself. Practicing aloud also allows me to re-write, time and get the flow of what major points I am trying to convey.
- Be true to your style. I really don’t care for microphones or podiums. I prefer what my friends call, ‘Preacher-style’ which is to walk around and interact with the attendees. In larger conference settings, that doesn’t work well. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t walk back and forth across the raised platform. I do need to be aware of how much I move, how much I move my hands, and be super careful not to turn my back to the audience. Remember though, it is always a good idea to modify your ‘style’ a bit based on your audience. For example, if you are the speaker that occasionally ‘gets the cussin’ spirit’ as my friend Ayanna calls it, you might want to check that at the door for any conservative or religious organizations that hire you.
- Be careful with your energy level. Know your ebb and flow. Anytime between 2 and 4pm is dangerous for me. This is when my energy level drops. Try to schedule your presentations for when you’ll have the most energy.
- Make an agreement with the conference producer on timing. Agree upon a signal or a type of interruption if the presentation is getting close to running out of time.
- Wear the one outfit that makes you feel feisty! We all have one outfit we love for when we are attending something important. Think of it as your ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Wonder Woman’ suit.
- Be rested. Get a good night’s rest. You’ll be glad you did.
- When the time comes to present, take a deep breath and just start. The more you present or teach, the easier it gets to step in front of that audience.
- Review your feedback. Most conferences and classrooms have an evaluation of the teaching staff or presenters. Be methodical and improve on each suggestion, one by one.
No matter your reason for getting up in front of a crowd to present, always look at it as an opportunity to be of service. The information you share or the stories you tell, just might have an amazing impact to those in attendance.