Had anyone told me when I was getting into high school that I would be speaking at marketing conferences in New York and London, I’d laugh in your face. That would be after turning bright red.
So I still turn bright red today (it’s part of being pale) but I am much more calm when it comes to speaking in front of groups of people. I’ve had friends in this industry ask many times “Do you get nervous?” or “How do you stay so calm?”
There isn’t a trick like picturing the audience naked (ewww!). It’s all a matter of perspective, preparation and confidence.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you get into a room to speak. The first is that you are in a room full of people just like you. No smarter, no less smart. The attendees will vary in experience level from experts that you have followed since starting in SEM, to beginners that got stuck doing SEO as part of their marketing role. The point is, they all are there to learn about your experiences. Don’t think you have to WOW everyone in the room. Remember that it is a big crowd, and you aren’t going please everyone. If you can help one person there, the job is done.
Practice Preparation Makes Perfect
One thing I don’t do is practice my speeches. I know, most people would call that heresy, but I prefer to shoot from the hip. My advice is to:
- Write your presentation ahead of time (NOT the night before) and go over it in your head a few times. It’s okay to edit just before the conference, things change too fast not to.
- Do not memorize it. Memorizing will only make you more nervous.
- Storytelling is the best way to connect with a group. Remember that part about the attendees being there to hear about your experiences, just tell them about those experiences.
You want things to be as natural as possible.
You were chosen for a reason. Have confidence that you can teach someone, many someones in fact, something new. Embrace the fact that you are an expert in your own field and industry. There are many experts at different things, and to someone in that audience you are the expert.
But don’t get a big head. Never stop learning. The moment you stop learning is when you need to change professions. You can be an expert at one thing and a complete greenhorn at another field or industry. So accept your new position as a speaker and go forth. You earned it with the blood sweat and tears poured into your work and optimization.