conference speaker

If you have been asked to speak at a business conference, then chances are the butterflies have gone off in your stomach and the self doubt has started to creep in. Very often, people will avoid these opportunities because they don’t want to get up on stage and look foolish. However, its important that if you want to build your brand and get your name out there, you are going to need to participate in the conferences within your industry.

Looking Foolish When Speaking

If you saw the Miss Teen USA pageant last summer, you probably witnessed how Miss South Carolina was overwhelmed when asked a basic geography question. It’s not that she didn’t know the answer to the question—she had a public speaking meltdown. In fact, her public meltdown was so newsworthy she was later featured on the Today Show.

Anyone thinking they’re unusual because they fear public thinking should realize it’s a common fear. In fact, fear of public speaking is no respecter of persons, as it attacks people of all ages, in all professions. Tragically, it ties your hands, not letting you do what you’re capable of accomplishing.

How can you avoid a public speaking meltdown? Here are a few tips…

You Don’t Have to Be a Guru of Your Topic

Many people fear public speaking because they believe the lie that they have to be experts in their topics. Even some of the best conference speakers started off as bumbling idiots before they found their stride. True, it’s good to be prepared and research as much as possible, but don’t feel like you must know everything there is to know if you’re going to get up in front of people and talk. Ironically, your audience relates much better to you when you relax and lets your humanity show.

In other words, if you can assure others that you’re human and make mistakes, then you’ve got the attention of your audience. Once this occurs, there’s less change of a meltdown. If someone in your audience asks a question that you can’t answer, just say, “That’s a good question. Let me do some research….Can I get back with you later?”

Limit Your Information

Trying to give more knowledge than time allots for can put stress on you as a public speaker. Instead of cramming too much information into a 20-minute talk, focus on only a few major points that you’ve researched thoroughly to feel confident enough to stand up in front of others and give a speech.

Don’t Try to Impress People

If you’ll be yourself, chances are you’ll be more relaxed. What’s more, don’t worry about getting everyone to agree with your point of view. As the saying goes, ”if you please everyone, then you’re probably doing something wrong.” On the other hand, if some folks don’t like what you say, then you must be doing something right.

Open with a Joke

There’s nothing quite like a good joke to break the ice with an audience. Not only will they be more relaxed, but you will also calm down. If you’re nervous about telling jokes, stand in front of a mirror to practice until you feel confident.

Picture Your Audience as “Funny”

There’s an old saying that if you picture your audience in their underwear, they’ll appear less intimidating to you. I don’t visualize my audience in their underwear, but I just try to think of them as human beings, such as myself. Picture whatever works for you, as the principle remains the same.

Practice At Smaller Events

Organizations like Toastmaster’s make it really easy for you to get some practice in front of a live audience before you hit the big stage. Find a local chapter in your area and polish up on your speaking skills so that you can build the confidence necessary.

See also: 3 Expert Tips to Amp Up Your Public Speaking Presence