Around 75% of the population worldwide suffer from the fear of public speaking, and for many, their fear is so great that it could derail their careers. In fact, 19% of the population are more afraid of public speaking than death, spiders, heights, and dark. Among office executives and workers, the top fears are public (15.7%), delivering presentations (12.2%) and cold calling (11.5%).
In other words, you’re not alone in having a trembling voice and experiencing sweaty palms, shortness of breath and accelerated heartbeat when called upon to speak in public and make a business presentation.
Fixing Your Mindset
One typical mindset problem when people have to speak in public is thinking that if everything doesn’t go perfectly well, they would have failed. In fact, perfection is impossible. It is far more helpful if you try to work on the elements that work, rather than focus on making everything work.
Many people also assume that they will fail in their next presentation because they had failed in the previous one. This is not correct. You have to understand and tell yourself that a single misfire doesn’t dictate everything.
They may not have failed the previous presentation to begin with. Some people think their presentation was a complete disaster when, in fact, it was actually fine. You have to wait to learn you audience’s actual reaction before you judge yourself.
And don’t assume you will not perform well despite extensive preparation. Appreciate the effectiveness of hard work and practice. Indeed, research suggests that if you dedicate 70% of your time writing the script, you will be able to create a better presentation.
Other things to remember:
- Facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they are a part of a story
- Your audience will remember 95% of what they hear and see when presented with images
- The first 30 seconds of your presentation is the most crucial one as it decides if you can thrive in the rest of it
Tips for a World-Class Presentation
Planning. When planning your presentation, understand the needs, wants and wishes of your audience as well as your own. Your presentation should be focused on four key objectives:
- Informing the audience
- Engaging the audience
- Influencing the audience
- And because you are performing, even entertaining the audience
Understand and research the interest values of the audience with regard to your subject and also their divergent positions.
Always look for common ground between the subject of your presentation and the needs of the audience.
Preparation. It is important to understand your knowledge gaps regarding the situation. About what you might know or not now about the subject and the presentation
It is also important that you understand your audience before you delve into the act. Choose your subject carefully and consider what your audience may or may not know about the topic.
Try to keep a record of your rehearsals on a smart phone. This will not only help you analyze your performance, but you can also check the way you speak, sound, and look.
Delivery. Open with vigor. The whole point of a presentation is to make the subject interesting. Having the right attitude and enthusiasm is half the battle won, as your enthusiasm and vigor will help keep the audience glued to your subject.
Remember to weave your thoughts in coherence, just like a story. Maintain the structure highlighting the key points.
Express with visuals. This is a good idea as 90% of the information that we remember comes to us through our eyes. Also, don’t forget to add some statistics.
Other points. Start and finish with your key message. Remember, it’s your key message that you want the audience to remember. So, start and end your presentation with a message or idea that forms the primary argument of your presentation.
Unify the message. A good presentation should also be able to bring the beginning back in the game, for which you would need to summarize all the key points and then tie them up together.
Call your audience to action. A good presentation usually dies at the end, not because you couldn’t put your point forward, but because you didn’t make it clear for your audience that you’re done and they need to clap. A presentation is aimed at calling the audience to action, so make sure you do that.
Conclusion. Always remember that the secret behind a successful presentation lies not just in its delivery, but also on how well you take your audience through it. So try to:
- Be authentic
- Keep your points brief
- Don’t expect to be an infallible expert
- Use a conversational style
- Consider taking questions during the presentation rather than at the end. Make it a two-way affair by engaging the audience in the process more often
How to Overcome Performance Anxiety
Getting past your fears is only a part of the equation; building skill is a different proposition altogether. And for that you need to:
- Take some deep breaths
- Research and re-research your topic repeatedly
- Organize the points
- Practice and go through the points frequently
- Visualize success
- Seek some professional help to master the art
Delivering presentations may seem like a daunting task. But with the right preparation and planning, you can come up with a presentation that’s ‘world class’ in its truest sense.
About the Author
Malcolm Andrews is an executive coach with over 20 years of experience working with organizations in Hong Kong. Download the infographic version of this article here.