Moving on. Last time I talked about how to calm those nerves (scary scary blank faces and sleeping audience of doom!) by Knowing Your Audience, Tailoring Your Anecdotes To Your Audience, Observing Your Audience (really it was all about them and not you) and Using Your Body. If you didn't read it, it has some useful tips so I'd go check it out here, or you can scroll down to the last post.
Today, I'm talking about you and the person who hired you to present!
WHY YOU ARE PRESENTING
Remember when someone asked you to do a presentation on eg., How to Write a Screenplay and you, the screenwriter extraordinaire you are, said "Sure, I'll do it!". Well the person or company who hired you to speak is expecting your insight on screenwriting. The audience is looking forward to your tips and insider secrets on how to write a blockbuster movie or an indie award winner.
So perhaps it's not the right audience for you to talk about your Horse Ranch or that you have a killer bottle cap collection.
Or less tongue in cheek topics - don't do a presentation on what it's like being a TV Showrunner, or a director or producer. Your audience wants to know what a script looks like, they need to know abouts acts and how you can't really put a character's internal thoughts in a screenplay because if they don't say it or you can't see it, it can't be done. This audience is probably a long way from being a Showrunner, and they may have no interest in being a director or producer. You will hold your audience's attention if you stick to the topic they have spent their time and money to come and see.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
Practice your presentation, time it and make sure you're not going to run too long or too short. Record yourself and listen to see where you can improve - are you speaking in a lullaby-like monotone? Change up your tempo and your pitch. Do you speak too fast and are overloading you audience? Slow it down. Give them a chance to think about the shiny ideas you've just presented them. Not only does practice allow you to hone your skills, but it helps you get to know your product, and your presentation more fully.
And that brings me to the big one. The biggest thing that will help you conquer your nerves when it comes to giving a speech or compelling presentation.
KNOW YOUR PRODUCT
If you know the topic you are talking about inside and out, you are less likely to get mental blanks and forget everything, you are going to feel more confident that you can handle the day because you know your shizzle and if you forget one detail, you'll have something else you can talk about.
This weekend I worked at The Age VCE & Careers Expo as a Student Ambassador for my University. I spoke to year 10, 11 and 12 students, parents, careers advisors and adults looking to change their career direction about the benefits of my University.
I am studying a Bachelor of Writing & Publishing, so when I had potential students of Aquaculture, Plumbing or Enginering etc come to me for information about what we offer, I floundered a little bit and had to look up the course guide. I got mental blanks in what I could tell them and didn't know the answers to some of their questions (but could direct them on who to contact, by email or phone or if they happened to be standing next to me). I got NERVOUS. Because I didn't KNOW MY TOPIC. When I had potential Writing and Publishing Students I was a completely different person. I was passionate, I could tell them about the different subjects and the industry connections they could make and practical experience they would gain from the course. I knew my stuff and I became fired up (in a good way) when talking to them. I had a girl come and speak to me on Saturday and she came back with a friend and her mother on Sunday (hi if you're reading this!).
Doing the research and KNOWING YOUR TOPIC truly are the KEY to conquering nerves.
As Conference and Festival Season approaches (heck, the whole year is Conference and Festival Season) I hope some of these tips will have helped you.