However, nothing's worse than the five minutes before it's your turn to take the stage.
Whether you're sitting in a boardroom chair or behind a stage curtain, whether it's your first time in front of a room or you speak multiple times a week, waiting for your turn is an emotional roller of "I can do this!" and "What am I doing?"
As someone who presents multiple times a month, you would think I would be immune to the pre-speaking jitters. Alas, I am not. However, after years of searching, I have found a solution for crippling stage fright: self-pep talks.
Here are the five pep talks I used to calm my nerves, steady my palms, and kill it on stage.
1. This is about them, not you.
I'll never forget the night before my first really big corporate presentation. I was terrified. I paced the hotel room, I prayed for a hurricane, anything to get out of having to present.
I called my husband in a panic and, in a (rare) moment of brilliance he said to me, "You've made this all about you. This isn't about you--this is about them. This is about what they will learn and what they can do with it."
He was right. I had allowed my fear to turn my focus inward instead of thinking about why I was there in the first place: to serve an audience.
Now, whenever I feel the grips of stage fright creeping in, I remind myself what's in it for them. Re-focusing on the audience shifts the fear to excitement.
2. It's only X number of minutes of my life.
Sometimes, the best cure for pre-speech anxiety is to put it into context. Yes, the stakes are high. Yes, the pressure is on. But in the grand scheme of things, what is 30 minutes really?
I used this technique a lot when I was pregnant, in August, in Arizona. Yes, it was miserable. But the time was finite; just like a presentation.
3. I've done this before.
Especially if this is your first big speech, think of another time when all eyes were on you.
Did you play sports in high school, and were you ever responsible for the game-winning shot? Have you ever given a toast at a best friend's wedding? Was there a big project due at work where you were the linchpin that brought it all together?
Each of those scenarios is similar to what you're up against now. Reminding yourself that you can deliver under pressure is a serious anxiety antidote.
And if it isn't your first speech, well, this one is easy.
4. Have fun.
Every week my husband drops me off at the airport, kisses me at the curb and yells, "Have fun!" as I head toward the terminal. I always appreciate the reminder.
As hard as public speaking can be, it can also be really fun. In fact, there is a strange reciprocal effect when it comes to fun; the more fun you have, the more fun the audience has, the more fun it becomes.
5. Just be you.
This is the most important one.
I don't know what it is about the limelight--even if the light is coming from fluorescent bulbs in a conference room--that makes us think we have to change ourselves. There is a tendency to edit out personality; to become stiff, or serious. Like a robot with a slide advancer. Nobody wants to see a robot present (I barely wanted to see those Chuck E. Cheese robots, and they played instruments).
Don't let your nerves cross your wires. Instead, in those final few moments before you step in front of the room, remind yourself to just be you. Your jokes, your quirks, you.
Those are the five surefire pep talks to calm your nerves and help you deliver the presentation of a lifetime, every time.
Now all that remains is how to convince people you're not crazy when they see you talking to yourself backstage.