Have You Ever Had Stage Fright?

Presenting with Power

Ready for a great example of someone who knows how to Ask Outrageously? Recently, Jordan Ramirez wanted to surprise his wife Dani Austin, an Instagram and blogging sensation, with something unique. He wanted a speaking coach to help her feel more comfortable with her upcoming presentations. Guess who follows Dani on Instagram? My speaking manager, Nicole, who suggested me to be Dani’s coach.

While we spoke about serious preparation, you’ll see we had some fun too. Dani did great! Want to know why? Dani has powerful information to share. She knows her stuff. And, she welcomes feedback. In addition to participating in fun exercises to help her relax and sound her best, we discussed tips to help her speak more powerfully and connect with the audience.


Whether it is making a presentation in front of thousands of people or negotiating with your boss, it is natural to be nervous before speaking. Many performers and professional speakers say that if they aren’t a little nervous, they don’t have that edge to deliver with enough energy.

Think Before You Speak

In the Passport to Success titled Speak to Success: Present with Power, Panache & Purpose, Lorri Allen and I suggest identifying what you would like people to know, think, feel or do following your presentation. Ask:

  • Who is your audience?

  • What is the purpose?

  • What should occur as a result of this presentation?

  • How much time do you have? (Hint: Start and finish on time.) Note: If a speaker before you runs long, ask the leader of the meeting if you should shorten your speech to keep the meeting on time. If the leader wants your full speech, ask the emcee to announce that the leader requested your full speech for the audience’s benefit, and it will go beyond the listed time.

Connect More Powerfully

Consider the best ways to connect and increase participation. What would:

  • Resonate with your audience or build credibility? (e.g. related examples, expert opinions, statistics, pictures, etc.)

  • Increase comprehension or retention? (e.g. stories, analogies, handouts, a call to action, etc.)

  • Improve engagement? (e.g. activities with a debrief, facilitated questions, group discussions, etc.)

Right Mindset

One of the best ways to get those nerves under control is by re-framing the emotion you’re feeling as excitement and anticipation. Honestly, the speech isn’t about you. It’s about your audience clearly receiving your message.

  • Remind yourself, “This is an important message. People will benefit when they hear what I have to say.”

  • Prepare, prepare and prepare. Be familiar with your beginning and closing to the point of memorization. Mentally, it will help you relax.

  • Try rituals. They can help keep you calm and get you in a positive state.

  • Realize people want you to succeed. They don’t want a boring speaker who wastes their time. Your participants are hoping you do well.

Sound Your Best

How a presentation sounds is as important as the content. The best speakers use inflection and enthusiasm to create vocal variety. By the way, accents are great as long as you are understandable. Practice using a microphone. Arrive early to check on the venue, to talk to the audio-visual team and to test any microphone before you use it. There are differences when working with a handheld, a lavaliere(lapel) or a headset microphone, and all take practice.

In order to sound your best:

  • Breathe from the diaphragm.

  • Relax by yawning or singing.

  • Perform vocal warm-ups.

  • Practice tongue-twisters.

  • Drink lots of water the day before and the day you present.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol or chocolate. Drink herb tea or warm water with lemon instead.

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Never, ever whisper. It damages your voice.


The way the information is presented is as important as the content involved. Constantly monitor your audience’s faces to see if they are engaged. (Don’t be talked into turning down the lights for the entire presentation in order to make your slides or video brighter.) People need to see you, the presenter. Keep your room lit enough to watch for audience reaction and to keep people awake. When you present, think of speaking as a conversation. Rather than scanning the room and looking at a sea of faces, find one person to deliver a thought. Then, move to another person when delivering your next idea. Watch your pace and pause to allow people to reflect and/or to check for understanding.


The benefits of feedback are to gain confidence, have better transitions, enhance the flow and improve your timing. You can practice before a mirror to watch your stance and gestures, but you’ll get richer information by recording yourself. Listen to your audio to check your voice, volume, rate, inflection, pauses and non-words. Consider having your speech transcribed. You’ll be able to read where aren’t clear or the words you use don’t make sense. Review video to gain an objective view of all aspects of your presentation including structure, verbal and non-verbal signs. Speaking is an art and a skill. You only get better at speaking by speaking.

Practice in front of your friends or peers and tell them specifically where you want their feedback. Ask them if you are making any of the top mistakes speakers make. Consider joining Toastmasters. Hire a speaking coach to improve your delivery, strengthen your message and smooth out trouble areas.

PS Need help negotiating your next presentation? Want to sound more powerful and connect no matter the size of your audience? If you want to know more about showing up powerfully and negotiating for what you really want, please ask!