The day after I passed my driving test, my godfather took me out to drive for the first time on the motorway (freeway).
As we rolled down the slip road, I had visions of our journey ending in a ball of flames as we drove faster than I had ever gone before.
But then my godfather gave me a piece of advice that not only put me at ease on the motorway, but has been a great piece of life advice too:
“It’s not a race.
If you’re nervous, simply stay in the slow lane.
Get comfortable in your ‘bubble’, come to terms with your surroundings and when you are ready, then think about pulling out, upping your speed and moving onwards.”
This is not only top advice for amateur drivers (I still use it to this day), but also great guidance for the nervous speaker.
Starting a speech can feel just like rolling down the slip road towards the fast moving motorway.
Your heart races faster, your palms get sweaty and you imagine your presentation coming to a fiery end.
If you’re going to survive those first few moments, you need to create your own safe ‘bubble’ in the form of an introduction to your presentation that relaxes you and gets you comfortable in your surroundings.
How do we create a ‘bubble’ presentation opening to give us confidence?
The very best introductions engage the audience and put the speaker at ease too. Here are three different ways you can create a safe ‘bubble’ introduction that will get your audience listening, and give you time to collect yourself and talk through any nerves that you might be feeling.
The question introduction
Open your presentation with a question to the audience that relates to your topic. For example, if you are talking about social media, ask the audience:
“How many of you here today have a Twitter account? Please raise your hand if you do.”
Why it works:
The question instantly gets your audience engaged and involved in your speech. They have to listen in case there are more questions! If you’re nervous, then seeing a room full of people put their hands up because you asked them too shows you that you are in control of the situation, and that everyone present is interested in what you have to say. Finally, the pause whilst the audience raises their hands gives you a chance to collect yourself and realise that you’ve just delivered a powerful opening line – you’re off and going!
The statement and pause introduction
Open your presentation with a bold statement about your topic and a long pause to allow your audience to consider what you have just said.
Why it works:
The pause after the statement will make you appear as a cool, calm and controlled speaker, whilst in fact it actually gives you a few seconds to breathe, and consider your next line. The statement itself intrigues your audience, and will get them leaning forward with anticipation to hear your next line and the rest of your speech. You will see an engaged and interested audience, boosting your confidence even further!
The you introduction
Use the first 30 seconds of your speech to talk about something you know more about than anyone else in the room – you!
Why it works:
Ok, so it’s not ideal to open with ‘me, me, me’, but if you are using the time to explain to your audience who you are and why you are qualified to stand and speak to them today about the topic, then it is time well spent.
There’s no way that you can fail or be incorrect when talking about yourself. No one knows more about you than you. In your lifetime you have spoken about yourself more than any other topic. You’re already an expert at it!
These are just three simple structures that you can use to create a presentation opening that you are comfortable with and helps to manage nerves. I’d love to hear any other techniques that you have discovered or use to get settled into your ‘bubble’ when standing up to present!