This simple device can turn awkward self-consciousness into confident presence. Here it is in a nutshell:
Reframe nervousness as excitement.
And let me spell that out.
Just before you speak, when the nervous pangs are rampant in the pit of your stomach, shift the way you interpret those pangs. Instead of seeing them as symptoms of fear, deliberately, actively, choose to see them as symptoms of nervous energy and excitement. You are charged up about delivering your message to the audience.
Wait a minute. Isn't it better to tell yourself to be calm and relaxed?
No it isn't. That's just denial - a lie to yourself so blatant that your subconscious won't let you get away with it.
But reinterpreting nervousness as nervous energy and excitement, is simply a re-direction of how you express the energy that's already in you - a simple shift that brings a startling result.
One more thing. Help yourself make that shift by allowing your body to move freely, letting all that nervous energy out in positive form. Your fear is no longer working against you, it's now working for you, connecting you with the audience. That's audience cred. Expect to see little nods of appreciation you may not have seen before. Discover that speaking in public can bring you a buzz of pleasure.
Go and make that audience yours.
I know. All you wanted was more confidence. But perhaps my suggestions - animation, emphasis, passion etc - are alarming. Surely, you might think, this will just make people see me as some kind of show pony, prancing about, preening in the spotlight, bathing in adulation. That is definitely not the aim!
But you will need to be an actor. Don't go away - unless you are always at your best, you need to switch on this very particular and unique act:
Act as if you are at your strongest, most confident, most convincing, right now.
To make it happen, think like this. Let's suppose you've had an uninspiring day. And yet you have to give a presentation in 10 minutes. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and imagine - as vividly as possible - how you would be looking, sounding and moving if you were having a really good day, feeling great. Make up your mind to keep up that act from right now until you finish speaking to your audience. That's feel-average you, acting feel-good you. Nothing to do with show ponies.
Now here's the extraordinary thing. When my trainees try that act, I get these typical responses. From the person doing the acting: “When I act confident, I actually feel more confident.” From the audience (to the presenter): “You come across as more believable.”
And here’s a tip that helps make your act easier and even more effective. They get your message better when they see how keen you are that they get your message. Think about that. In other words:
Make your desire to be understood obvious.
How? Go back to the first thing I said on this page... a little more animation, emphasis, passion etc. Full circle? No. This is you at your authentic best.
As always, try it out with a trusted friend or colleague first.