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Do you have a big presentation coming up and don't know how to overcome feelings of nervousness? In this post, we offer first-time speakers and presenters advice for overcoming stage fright and building confidence when confronted with a wide platform and a big audience.
The scientific term for the fear of public speaking is Glossophobia. It is oftentimes used interchangeably with speech anxiety. There are several factors that lead speakers to greatly fear standing in front of a crowd and speaking their minds out.
Speech anxiety has different triggers and levels of severity. There are some who experience an irrational fear when they stand in front of a crowd, and then there are others who simply freeze when overwhelmed by a crowd. In this state, you find yourself wishing you had even an ounce of the confidence celebrities have in the midst of all the media attention and fame.
I have some advice to share with you as someone who loves speaking challenges. I enjoy public speaking so much that I volunteered to be a part of my school’s debating team. In college, I continued to explore my speaking abilities and became a member of the Toastmasters Club. Yes, I experienced my share of queasiness, but every time I stood up to utter my first phrase, it all disappeared. It pained me, though, to see how some of my colleagues struggled, even in smaller classroom settings.
Today, I will share two steps to help you become a better presenter:
If you want to be successful at anything, you must BE PREPARED.
Preparation entails two things: your presentation and your confidence as a speaker.
Your presentation includes your visuals and slides. When preparing your presentation, keep in mind the following items:
Make sure you have a captivating title that will make your audience wonder what will make your presentation different from all the others they have seen. When thinking of how to frame your title in a way that would catch your audience's attention:
Start by posing a question if your presentation offers a practical answer to what your audience is dying to know.
Incite your audience’s curiosity by creating a title that will challenge their assumptions.
Shock them with facts and give them good reasons to listen to your presentation.
Use a step-by-step guide if your presentation is about how things are done.
Offer informational lists. Do it with less words. Highlight the key points and discuss.
Offer outstanding statistics about your business, company, products or industry. Never miss an opportunity to stand out.
Share a story about your organization, brand or business. Share success stories and highlight failures and struggles to show how a specific solution worked for a client or how it improved the business.
Visuals are great tools in your presentations. If you have a talent for describing or sharing your story through visuals, do so.
Never underestimate the power of visual content in your presentations. Visuals speak volumes. If you have the ability to create a 3d animation of what you intend to convey, then take the time to do so. If you have the resources to buy images from third-party providers, do so. If this is not in your budget and you're in need of a great visual, then use our online visual creation tool Visme to create your own visual content and presentations.
Never compromise the effectiveness of your presentation with low-quality content. Make sure that the information you include in your presentation is well-founded and backed up by facts. As much as possible, prepare two to three references for every fact or key point you're presenting so that if a question should arise, you will be well prepared to answer.
Today, every piece of information is transferred through digital and electronic technology. Offer your presentation in a format that is easily accessible and shareable. Provide a link so that your listeners can download your presentation. Nowadays, it’s very rare for attendees to carry pen and paper. Instead, they probably have tablets and mobile phone applications that record everything and make the note revision process easier. Optimize your presentation with high mobility and shareability so that your audience will have access to it anytime they need it.
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Back when I was still taking part in speech contests, I would spend hours (aside from memorizing my piece) practicing my pauses, working on my intonation. finding the right moment to acknowledge my audience and the right moment to keep them hanging.
I would stand in front of the mirror, look at myself and pretend that I was giving the actual presentation. Declamation pieces were easy to deliver as they required only memorization, but when I began to participate in extemporaneous speaking events and debate contests, I found that maintaining your composure in front of spectators was much more difficult as you feel rushed to formulate words, sentences and paragraphs in a time-sensitive setting.
A piece of advice that I found very useful was to always anticipate and plan for the worst-case scenarios. Don't expect everything to go as planned. Expect hard questions and even interruptions from hecklers. Read as much as you can and learn about every tangential issue that may be related to your presentation.
Once you have prepared your presentation, remember to put yourself in your audience's shoes. Ask yourself what questions could arise about this particular topic.
Once you have outlined and prepared, practice the delivery of your answers. This will greatly impact your conviction when you actually do answer. A hint of uncertainty can always be detected in your tone of voice, so to avoid this, practice, practice, practice.
So much has been said about body language, and yes, it is a key element when delivering a speech or making a presentation.
The audience relies heavily on your face when they are gauging the depth of the meaning of your message. Make sure that what comes out in your speech is reflected on your face. Saying something that is factual while your face is communicating skepticism creates confusion in the audience. What you are saying must be supported by your expressions.
Smile when you say something funny. Show empathy if your message or presentation points out something we should be doing. Project success if you are sharing performance indicators about your company, brand or product.
Maintain eye contact, especially when you are discussing key points in your presentation.
Use your Space
Every speaker or presenter is allotted a fair amount of space on the stage. Own that spotlight. Occupy the platform in a way that declares your authority and confidence. The way you stand in front of your audience shows how confident and competent you are. The way you walk and talk reveals your authority, conviction and influence.
Modulate your voice
Like your facial expressions, should support what you are presenting. Again, your tone of voice during presentation delivery says a lot about your mastery, efficiency and effectiveness. The audience can detect if you don’t believe what you're saying or if you have no knowledge on a certain topic.
It should be audible enough that even the person at the back of the room can hear you. If you are using a microphone, learn how to modulate your voice in a way that the electromagnetic feedback will not interfere with the clarity of your voice.
Again, an effective presentation has two key components: the content of the presentation and the presenter.
These are two simple steps, but if you follow them in a balanced manner, you can be sure you will make an impact and will make it worth your audience's time to listen to your presentation.
In the next posts, we will offer more tips on how to improve your presentation skills and overcome your speech anxiety.