The most nerve wracking thing about getting up in front of an audience can often be what to do with our bodies and most importantly our arms and hands.
Here is some of my advice.
1. Know your material and practice over and over again. I know it can feel odd practicing out loud to an empty room but the more you know your content the less time and energy you spend trying to remember what to say next. This you can make you look distracted, disconnected and the gestures look forced and out of place.
2. Record yourself. My students tell me this is like an form of torture to start with. By doing this exercise you are able to see yourself through the audience’s eyes and determine if you do anything with your body that you weren’t aware of like repeating a gesture over and over again or playing with your hair. Rocking or doing some sort of dance on the spot to a rhythm only you can hear is a common one. Once you are aware of anything you do you can then work on controlling it onstage.
3. Feel passionate about what you are talking about and deliver the presentation in a way that shows that passion. It should be your objective to get the audience as enthused about your topic as you are. The energy that comes with passion is contagious and you will have the audience eating out the palm of your hand.
4. Don’t be afraid to tell stories. We all love a good story and it’s a great way to captivate and connect to your audience. Believe it or not we are all natural storytellers and telling a story in a conversational way can help you relax and make the whole presentation sound and feel more natural.
5. Find your neutral stance. This is an area I spend quite a lot of time on with students. It can be quite tricky to explain as everyone is different and it can also depend on what type of presentation you are delivering. Generally your neutral stance should be feet shoulder width apart, facing your audience. Shoulders back and down and head up. Try holding your hands together gently with a bend at the elbow so they are placed just in front of the belly button. When you make a gesture come back to this position.
6. Don’t gesture too often. Your gestures should happen at key moments to reinforce your message.
My biggest advice is to try and relax. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done but the more you relax the more comfortable you will feel on stage and the more natural your gestures will be.