Presentation Tips for Shy People

presentation tips for shy people in business for ybkbs small business magazine in leicester
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By Jess Dixon

If you’d told me ten years ago that one day I’d stand up and give a presentation to a room of five hundred people, I would have assumed you were high or lying. I was a theatre kid growing up, so people used to get really surprised when they discovered I was actually quite shy. But pretending to be someone else on stage is a million miles from talking to a room full of people as yourself.

I had to get over my general shyness and dislike of public speaking when I became a Community Fundraiser in 2016. By the time I left that job three years later, delivering presentations about the charity’s work was no longer something to dread, but my favourite part of the role!

As a business owner, you’re very likely going to need to present in front of an audience at some point. Whether you’re pitching to a prospective client, speaking at a conference, or running a class or course, overcoming your fear and learning how to present like a pro will do you and your business good.

So here are my top presentation tips for shy people.

Speak 10% more slowly than you think you need to

I understand that you want to get to the end of your speech or presentation as quickly as possible. But you need to slow down if you want people to absorb and understand what you’re saying! So take a breath, and slow. down.

Then, when you think you’re speaking slowly enough, dial it back another 10% or so.

Don’t be afraid of pauses

A momentary pause while you change your slide, take a sip of water, or allow your audience to absorb the point you just made is not a bad thing! Stop being afraid of the silences – they strengthen your presentation, not weaken it.

Banish filler words

Do you pepper your sentences with “uh,” “erm,” and “like”? These are filler words and while they’re not a problem in everyday speech, when you’re presenting they can weaken what you’re saying and make you sound nervous.

As you rehearse your presentation, pay attention to how often these verbal fillers are sneaking in. One or two every now and then won’t kill an otherwise great presentation, but it’s best to get rid of as many of them as you possibly can!

Practice, practice, and practice again!

Everyone, even the most confident people, can benefit from practice before they give a big presentation. So do as many dry-runs as you need, both by yourself and to a sympathetic audience like a friend, colleague, or family member. If you know you’ve prepared as thoroughly as possible, you’ll feel much more confident when you get in front of your actual audience on the day.

Pay attention to your body language

Are you slouching or standing up straight? Are you standing tall, or folding in on yourself as if you want to disappear? Pay close attention to your body language and make sure your posture is open, confident, and welcoming.

If you’re struggling to picture how you’re standing, either rehearse your presentation in front of a mirror or film yourself and watch it back. I know this sounds a bit cringy, but it really does work.

Oh… and don’t forget to smile and make eye contact!

Pretend you’re talking to a friend

If you can, try to block the audience out as you talk. Imagine you’re presenting to just one trusted friend. This helps you to stop worrying about what everyone in the audience is thinking. It also helps you to feel like the audience is on your side (which they are, I promise! They’re sitting listening to you because they want to know what you have to say.)

If it helps, pick one person in the audience and pretend you’re just talking to them.

Use humour

One of the quickest ways to break the ice and get an audience on side is to tell a well-placed joke. Not everyone can do this or feels comfortable with it (and it wouldn’t be appropriate for some topics) but if you’re able to inject a bit of humour, it can make you feel more relaxed.

Remember that mistakes are a bigger deal to you than they are to the audience

When I was acting, we used to say, “the audience doesn’t know what the script says!” In other works, if you forget a line or mix up your words, it doesn’t matter that much! How you recover from it is what matters.

So chill out – everyone makes mistakes or messes up a line now and then, even the most experienced presenters. Pause, breathe, and correct yourself or fill in the missing information. And remember that no-one in the audience will remember a mistake five minutes later… if they even notice it at all.

Presenting feels like a huge deal and very scary when you’re shy. But like anything else in the working world, it’s a skill. That means you can get better with practice! You might never feel amazing in front of an audience, but at the very least you can stop breaking out in a cold sweat every time you have to stand up and speak.

Who knows… you might even come to enjoy it!

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