Feeling Shy? 6 Tips to Prepare Before Speaking at a Conference

You’ve just booked a speaking gig, and as excited as you were at first, you’re now feeling dread and apprehension. Who are you to think you can handle standing in front of a crowd of people and effortlessly educating them all while appearing dynamic, interesting, and ahead-of-the-times? That’s a lot of pressure for anyone, and even the most extroverted individuals may feel a little shy before speaking at a conference. Take a deep breath. Here are six tips to help you through your next speaking gig.

1. Plan Your Outfit

Okay, while this might sound like silly advice to give any speaker, all eyes are going to be on you, so make sure you feel comfortable with whatever you’re wearing. You don’t want to worry while you’re talking that the midsection on your dress is bunching up on your belly or your pants are too short. Similarly, a well-chosen outfit will give you that extra boost of confidence so you can spend your moments of the speech paying attention to what’s important.

2. Create an Outline

Unless you have a speech writer and a photographic memory, you’re going to need to create an order of all the points you want to discuss. An outline helps you make sure you’re presenting the right material at the right time. It also helps your memory to take a pen to paper—or your fingers to the keys. Once you’ve jotted down the important elements of your speech, you can use it to practice and even bring it with you on the big day to keep your talk on track. Just keep it to the point and with lots of white space so you can follow along in the moment and not get lost.

3. Get It On Film

The best speeches are the ones that come off effortless, and do you know why they seem that way? Because the speaker knows her material well. Carrie Sharpe, communication consultant and speaker suggests. “Prior to the conference, make a video of yourself giving your talk exactly like you will at the conference. When you watch the recording, make note of any nervous habits you need to control, points that need better explanation, and parts where you can work in more stories. Tweak the talk based on your notes, and then repeat this process until you are satisfied with it.”

4. Get Rest and Relax

You’ve put a lot of effort into preparing for your speech, so take some time for self-care and spend the night before your speech relaxing in whatever way works best for you. Everyone’s different, so relaxing for you might be a late night swim in the pool, a drink with friends (and just one drink so you don’t feel hungover!), or going to bed early after listening to some calming music.

5. Come Prepared

The day of the big speech is finally here. Are you nervous? That’s okay. Even when you’ve spent a lot of time practicing, and you’re confident you know your material, speaking to a group of people can be a little scary. One way to combat your nerves is to get there early. If you need electronics to assist your speech you’ll have time to make sure everything is plugged in and loaded. Bring your notes, your water bottle, your lucky charm, because it’s showtime.

6. Befriend the Crowd

Still feeling shy? One of the reasons it’s important to arrive early for your speech is to make friends with some of the audience members. Did I lose you for a second? If you’re feeling nervous, the idea of chatting up the attendees may terrify you. You don’t need to waltz around the room engaging in long conversations, but it is good to speak to two or three people that you can make eye contact with in the room. Ask them a few questions, such as “What brought you this conference today?”, “What do you hope to learn from this training?” You can even keep it simple by asking their name, where they are from, or their favorite color. Building a relationship engages your audience and help you feel at ease to get started.

Now, step out of your shell and shine!

What are your favorite tips for stepping out of your shell before a big speech? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments on Facebook!