As a young boy growing up in Ohio, USA, I remember the Boy Scouts' motto: "Be prepared".
What does this mean? Being prepared means to have on hand all that you need for any given scenario.
As a presenter, being prepared will also be your greatest defence against the nervousness and unpredictability you will face.
Here are a few tips you will find useful when getting ready to speak publicly:
The first thing is to prepare your notes and material. This means giving yourself adequate time for selecting and developing every aspect of your presentation, including the introduction and conclusion, support materials and audio-visual aids.
Give extra attention to work on the first three to five minutes of your speech to develop rapport with your audience.
You do not need to memorise your presentation. An easier way is to make notes that capture key words and concepts.
Mind mapping is a great tool for presenters as it allows you to see main ideas, sub-ideas and their relationship to each other, in a colourful, visual format. I make an overall map of my entire topic, and then I make smaller cards with mini mind maps of specific topics that I keep at hand for quick reference.
You can also learn to prepare and make better use of your body. Our caveman ancestors would feel a rush of blood and accelerating pulse when faced with a giant predator. The human body devised this to meet challenges and rise to the occasion.
You still experience this "fight or flight" response before you are about to take the stage. You can learn to accept the extra energy as a natural response to the unknown and use it to your advantage.
One useful technique is simply to breathe deeply. Deep diaphragm breathing - where you push out fully the area just below your navel - will help you to harness some of that energy and to calm the butterflies.
Do this before you stand up to present and just before you speak. Before taking the stage, perform this deep breathing exercise and combine it with powerful physical movement, such as jumping in place, or making a Tiger Woods-style action of fist pumping and smiling.
Another way to leverage on the energy in your body is to move around. I am sure you have seen a presenter who seems to have both hands glued to the lecturn while he spoke.
The speaker has lost the use of one of his best tools - the gesture. Beware of the lectern. Move it away from the usual prominent place on a stage.
This gives me the flexibility to move about, and tells the audience that I am more available to them. You can also try using a simple music stand positioned in the centre of the stage to hold your notes instead. It is friendlier than the formal lectern and serves the same purpose.
Practise your delivery
Have you ever seen someone present eloquently and naturally? It is because they have practised. Prepare your delivery. This is where a video camera can be your best friend.
If you do not have a video camera, try practising with your child, spouse or even a mirror. One speaker said he practises with a clock. It has a face, possibly more movement than some of the audience, and it allows him to time his delivery.
I sometimes practise with my nine-year-old daughter. It allows me to practise in a light-hearted way, and creates a fun experience where she can also be the teacher.
Making a connection
Presenting and speaking is an opportunity - to share, inspire and instruct others. It is also an opportunity for you to grow and to become a leader. Through overcoming your fears and doing a fantastic job in your delivery, you create a platform for others to do so as well.