The fear of public speaking is one of the most cited phobias amongst working adults. This can lead to notable challenges for those who must speak in front of groups on a regular basis. Luckily, there are a variety of techniques available to help you work through discomfort, allowing you to not just cover the material, but present it in a new, “upgraded” way.
Gain Confidence in the Subject
Most people who are asked to speak to a large group are being asked to share their area of expertise. Having confidence in your understanding of the subject matter, as well as the content of the presentation, can help boost your confidence overall.
Instead of focusing your energy on the idea of speaking, focus on the material instead. You may find yourself comforted by the fact that you are familiar with the information, which may make the entire process less intimidating.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Public speaking is a skill. As with any skill, practice makes (reasonably) perfect. After you have developed your material, rehearse your speech out loud, and then do it again and again. By going through your presentation completely, including verbalizing your points, you will become more comfortable with how you intend to present the material. Additionally, it will allow you to smooth out any transition statements to help your speech feel more natural and flowing.
Memorize Your Slides
Knowing the order in which your slides will appear can also help relieve a level of anxiety regarding the presentation. Not only will you look for professional, as you will not have to refer to the slide visually at every transition, you may also be more comfortable since you are confident in what to expect as you move forward.
Prepare for Tough Questions
If your presentation includes a question and answer session, prepare answers for any difficult questions or challenging aspects of the material. This can be especially helpful for items that require specific statistics or other concrete data to support your answer. If appropriate, prepare additional slides that cover the information, just in case the question arises. Not only will that provide you with a reference point for your response, it may also make the answer easier for audience members to understand.
Presentations are Not Performances
Regardless of how many people are in the room, presentations are not performances. Instead, they are structured conversations. Your primary goal is to inform, not to entertain. By keeping that thought in the forefront of your mind, you may find the situation less stressful.
Do Not Focus on Audience Expressions
When under stress, we tend to misinterpret the true nature of facial expressions. This issue can be compounded by the fact that audience members are less inclined to produce positive visual clues even when they are enjoying the content. Many audience members will appear to have a blank expression due to the fact that audience members listen in a different way than those engaged in a social interaction. The shift in the paradigm causes them to focus more on the content of your speech and less on providing you with cues regarding their receptiveness to the content.
Visualization is a powerful tool that anyone can develop, and can also be as effective as actual practice. The key is too actually imagine yourself giving the presentation, from beginning to end, in detail. This can include every step of the walk towards the podium, looking out over the audience, and reciting each line of your presentation.
Don’t Fear Silence
When you are presenting, even a small pause can feel like an eternity of silence, even though it isn’t. Fight the urge to rush through material by allowing yourself to pause regularly. You can use the time to regain your composure or even squeeze in some deep breathing. By keeping the pace methodical, you may feel less frantic than if you try to rush through the material as quickly as possible.
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