I still get really nervous before I go on stage. Even if my preparation is on par, the nerves only start to shake out once I start talking to an audience. Until then, I am terrified that I am not prepared enough. I get scared that I will forget something, or go blank, or mess the words up on the one line I want to get perfectly.
I specialize in working with people who want to share personal stories when they are giving a speech or presentation (TEDx, professional presentation, etc.) I help speakers get comfortable with being vulnerable in front of an audience. Being vulnerable on stage makes presenting even more nerve-racking because of the fear of not being accepted.
What I have learned over the years is that proper preparation is the key to having a successful speech that flows - the goal is to be so prepared that you are able to let go while presenting and ad lib as you read the audience's energy. Speakers need to be able to go with flow. Knowing the components of a speech like the back of your hand is the biggest gift you can give yourself.
I didn't say you wouldn't still be nervous - but the nerves will wash away once you start talking because that is what preparation gives you.
Here are a few tips to consider when using a personal story in a presentation or speaking engagement in order to make a greater impact on your audience:
1. Choose a story that is meaningful for you - a story that will personally shift something for you if you share it.
2. Write your story into your speech and start your preparation of practicing your story two weeks before your event (sooner if you'd like!)
3. Break parts of your story down into one to two words and write them on sticky notes. You can do as many as you want. Paste those sticky notes on the walls around the room you are practicing. As you practice, move from one sticky note to the next (while standing) and practice your story that way. This helps you learn how to visualize your story instead of memorizing it.
4. Practice your story (at least once) with a group of peers whose feedback you trust.
5. Crush it!
If you are using a PowerPoint to assist in telling your story it is best to use images only. I find that images are great "cues" for the next part of the story that is being told. Images can often set a visual and deeper emotional tone that an audience often needs to connect to you even further. Also, people can't read words on a screen and listen to you at the same time - at least, not well.
Don't be afraid to share a part of yourself in your next speech or presentation - we all crave connection and connect through emotion. You will be changed and so will your audience.