It’s natural to be nervous when giving a presentation. For many, nervousness is directly proportional to the size of the audience, which would make you think that the smaller the audience, the higher the presenter’s confidence. Elite presenters understand that this is not actually the case; a larger audience gives you more participants to engage, paths to walk and opportunities for your message to resonate.

But there is a time when a particularly small audience is of immeasurable value. An audience so small that they’ll easily fit in any hotel room with you. An audience of precisely zero. This audience is valuable because they’re going to let you practice out loud, but keep their thoughts to themselves. No criticism. No multi-tasking. No tweeting. But this audience is tough because they give you absolutely NOTHING to work with. No visual cues, no questions, no answers.Lampstands, pillows, hotel artwork are the toughest crowd you’ll find – but you’ll actually be really glad you got to know them.

The next time you are gearing up for a major presentation, first try presenting to these inanimate objects. It will feel odd at first, very odd. And you’ll dismiss it as not worthwhile. But the more you rehearse what you’re planning to say, hear yourself saying those words out loud, the more you’ll be able to tune your exact message. Payback is simple: The more you practice what you’re going to say, by saying it, outloud, (not imagining it), the easier on the day to be confident with your audience.

It’s desperately hard to present to an empty room. The first time you try it you’ll hate it – and likely head straight to the bar for an evening snifter while telling yourself that you’ll have no problem rocking it live. But persevere. The familiarity that comes with hearing your own words, improving the flow through repetition and consciously linking movements to moments, will actually make you look forward to a live audience and empower you when that moment comes. This effort you make in private, will reward you greatly when it’s your public chance to shine.

It might sound paradoxical, but if you can learn to present to nobody, you really can present to anyone at all.

[photo courtesy]

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