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Never mind nerves, what if you could feel 'at home' when presenting?

When it comes to public speaking, clients often tell me 'I just want to get it over with,' or 'I just want to get through the speech without my voice shaking.' If you're part of the majority of people who find public speaking daunting, this probably feels familiar. Right now, success might feel like getting through your presentation without going to pieces. But what about feeling safe in the spotlight? What about feeling comfortable, present and free enough to respond spontaneously to the room? What about actually enjoying public speaking?! Read on to find out how this might be possible for you.

We interact spontaneously with our families and friends everyday without even thinking about it. If you're reading this and you find speaking up in front of crowds tough, I'll bet you are brilliant at connecting and building rapport with people one-to-one. If that feels challenging, I'll still bet there is at least one person you can usually connect with, make laugh or get your point across to clearly. If you can do it with one person, you can do it with a room full of people.

For clients who are nervous, I always ask 'what's the difference between an audience of one and an audience of a twenty,

or a hundred?...

or six hundred??...'

The response is usually that once there is a crowd, you automatically feel judged and intimidated. So, here are my tips for rewriting this unhelpful belief.

REMEMBER THE INDIVIDUALS: Instead of focusing on your audience as a singular (and perhaps terrifying) entity, I invite you to remind yourself they are individuals. This always helped me when I was performing my one-person show; as an actor I enjoyed the various connections I formed with audience members as I delivered lines directly to them. Audiences feel less intimidating if you include them, rather than try to pretend they are not there. Performing always feels most electric when the relationship with the audience is symbiotic, and this can be true for all forms of public speaking (even a ten minute Tuesday morning presentation!) On the flip side, not everyone is there for you and that's ok! Some people may seem disengaged and that's usually not personal. I once got a standing ovation for a show, and all I could focus on was the man asleep in the front row. I learned I was never going to be everyone's cup of tea. If someone looks miserable or judgy, they might be distracted or uncomfortable making eye contact. Or maybe they're just not your kind of audience member. (Still not personal). In that scenario I advise you to move on and give your energy to the people in the room who get you, whether they are colleagues, contacts, friends, or potential clients.

TO APPLY THIS TIP: When you deliver you next speech/pitch/presentation, I invite you to make eye contact with at least 3 people in the room for at least 4 seconds. This might feel scary at first, but instead of thinking about how you're doing or what they might be thinking about you, instead try to pick up on what they're feeling. Enjoy sharing this fleeting moment with them. How often do we get through our days without really connecting with the people around us. When you do make the effort, chances are they'll feel included and much more invested in what you are saying. Then move onto the next person and notice how the connection is different. It will be! As your confidence grows over time, you might share a smile, a joke, or even respond to an off the cuff comment from someone in the room.

BACK TO BREATH. This is advice I return to most frequently. All public speaking must start with breath. Relax your body and your breath as much as possible before presenting. If you go onstage, or in front of people to speak without some form of relaxation first, chances are you'll spend the first few minutes tense and uncomfortable. Tension makes vocal cracks and shaking much more likely. You wouldn't run a marathon without stretching first, and public speaking is exactly the same.

My go to is Jeanette Nelson's series of breathing, articulation and resonance exercises for the National Theatre, but there are hundreds of videos online about breathing and vocal technique. If you're warmed up, you'll be more relaxed. If you're more relaxed, you'll be more present. If you're present, you'll connect and communicate well. Connection and communication is the goal after all.

I run regular 1-2-1 and group public speaking sessions online and in Brighton and Worthing. To find out more, visit

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