One of the questions people ask me about public speaking and delivering presentations is, “Why?” Why get up in front of an audience, sometimes filled with “important people” you don’t know, or perhaps, and maybe worse, friends and family, and possibly make a fool of yourself? Why volunteer to deliver a presentation to bosses and coworkers? This usually puts an extreme amount of pressure, and a huge spotlight, on you! Why accept an invitation to be on a discussion panel, where you will be sitting with people who may be considered authorities on the subject? Why offer to be the master of ceremonies of an event you know will be well-attended and possibly have media coverage? Why walk to a public microphone, and ask a question, in front of the entire audience, to someone who just delivered a presentation? Why go to networking events, social functions and seminars where you know someone will ask all in attendance to, Please stand up and tell us who you are and what you do?
We perceive really good speakers as experts. Perception is reality, and we like to work with experts. The research shows speaking opportunities are business, career and leadership opportunities. People who take and make those speaking opportunities grow their businesses, advance their careers and increase their leadership roles.
Let’s take a closer look at that proposition. Entrepreneurs who speak to civic groups, at association meetings and other events present themselves as experts and leaders in their industry. Being ‘on the program’ and ‘at the lectern’ impresses people. Delivering great presentations increases the credibility of the presenter and their company—this leads to more business!
Businesses like to hire and promote people who communicate well. These individuals, when speaking on behalf of their company, give audiences a favorable impression of themselves and the firm they work for; and favorable impressions lead to sales and grow revenues.
Presentations are delivered internally, also. Delegating that duty to someone who does it well allows the owner to focus on other activities. Management knows information will be presented in a professional manner that’s easily understood by all. Those coworkers will be inspired and, in many cases, emulate the skills of the person who presents well.
Leaders should be excellent communicators, and individuals with this skill are called upon more often than others to represent their employer at outside events, speak at other meetings they attend, lead internal gatherings, and take the platform to promote their ‘platform.’
I present this hypothesis whenever I speak, and it’s never been challenged. Most of you are thinking, Of course not, what’s to challenge?
Why then, do so many avoid speaking opportunities? If you’re one who doesn’t raise your hand when asked to take speaking opportunities, you have an answer. That response is probably: the fear of public speaking. This fear, which is often listed as one of the greatest people have, holds many back from reaching their potential, personally and professionally.
My research has found it is an ‘equal-opportunity fear’ that doesn’t care about your age, education or occupation. I have coached people ranging from doctors to CEOs to a father of the bride-to-be. The thought of toasting the newlyweds started giving him anxiety attacks the day his daughter got engaged!
Next month’s article will address this fear and why people have it. Subsequent columns will address ways to lessen it. Beyond the fear information, we’ll look at the components, parts and elements of a presentation.