Close your eyes and take a moment to go back to high school or college again (frightening, I know). Do you recall that feeling of anxiousness as you stood in front of a group of students and had to convince them that you knew what you were talking about? Whether or not you did well in speech class, you most likely never learned the biggest secret in persuasion: you will always feel slightly nervous. In sales and business, you’ll often find yourself standing in front of an audience and will – naturally – feel anxious. However, the best speakers know to utilize adrenaline and transform it into excitement. Use that excitement to speak more effectively, you will have a better reaction from your audience. When your audience is engaged, you will feel more confident and less fearful. Follow these tips to combat your nerves and have a successful speech to persuade potential customers.

1.      Don’t avoid eye contact with audience members. You may have heard the advice to picture the crowd naked or to look just above an individual’s eyes on his or her forehead. I would highly suggest you avoid this tactic. While it offers temporary relief from the nervousness, you aren’t going to be able to maintain a handle on your confidence. Know what you’re speaking about and say it with pride. Look into the eyes of those who are listening, move slowly about the room and speak to one person at a time.

2.      Show genuine passion – rooted in knowledge. If you’re giving a speech, you’re most likely an expert on the subject. If not, learn. Fill your mind with as much information as possible, and use your knowledge to craft a passionate speech that flows from you as easily as talking to a friend. A good rule of thumb is to try and know 5X what you audience likely knows on the subject.

3.      Add a dash of humor. Speaking of talking to a friend, when having a one-on-one conversation, would you simply stare at the person and give a monotone lecture? Of course not. Within your speech, show a bit humor. Smile. Chuckle. Interact with your audience by remaining personable and fun.

4.      Practice, but not too much. Practice does make perfect, but over-analysis leads to paralysis. Preparing your speech will help alleviate stress, but try to avoid sounding robotic. A truly persuasive speech flows gracefully and doesn’t rely on the script to stay on point. For example, if mid-speech you suddenly think of another point to add… add it! Stay natural.

Persuade your audience with an effective speech. By following these tips, you’ll hone the ability to set aside your nervousness and replace it with confidence – and, as always, confidence is key.