Before your speech, meet some of the members of your audience. Talk to them, get to know them a little. It’ll make you a lot less nervous when you’re speaking, because you’ll be talking to friends, not a bunch of nameless, faceless strangers.

How can you do this?

At almost every conference, there’s a coffee break a couple times a day. At one of these coffee breaks, spend a few minutes chatting with some of the audience members.

Remember, your audience members are people, and they probably get nervous speaking in front of groups, just like you do. In fact, while you’re making small talk and thinking about how nervous you are, they’re probably thinking, “I wish I had courage like this guy, he’s going to get up on stage and give a speech, but here he is, coming up to me and saying hello.”

Get to know your audience members in the same way you would if you were at a party with them.

You wouldn’t say, “Hi, my name is John, what’s your company’s biggest pain point?”

You would say, “Hi, my name is John, where are you from?”

“What brings you here?”

“How has the conference been so far?”

“There’s a big dinner and dance tonight. Are you going?”

Make small talk like this with a few of the people before your presentation. You’ll be less nervous when the time comes for your speech. You’ll know some of the people in the audience already.

In fact, you can even reduce your nervousness by greeting your new friends when your speech starts. “Thank you for inviting me here today, I’m going to talk about XYZ. But first, let me say hi to a couple people. Bill, where are you? Hello Bill, welcome, good to see you again. And Susan, where are you? Oh, Susan’s not here, she probably had to step out to take a very important call from her boss. Anyway, we’re here today to talk about XYZ, so let’s get started…”

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, Bucharest, and Sofia for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.