Last month, we started discussing nuggets to lessen the fear of public speaking. These are proven practices I use with coaching clients and talk about in my presentation seminars.
We don’t want to completely rid ourselves of the fear of public speaking. Toastmasters tells us to take those “butterflies in our stomach” and “teach them to fly in formation!” Put that nervous energy into your presentation!
Nugget No. 6
The opening should give the audience a ‘roadmap’ of where your presentation will be taking them. This should tell them what the other parts and elements are, and when each will be delivered.
Here’s an example I use in one of my openings: “I’ll be talking about the components, parts and elements of a presentation. I’ll name them, explain them and give examples. Then, we’ll look at bonus tips to take a presentation from Blah to Ah! Next, we’ll examine the fear of public speaking: why we have it, and nuggets to lessen it. I’ve got time set aside for questions. Finally, I’ll close my presentation.”
In those few sentences, the audience knows exactly how the program will continue. Of utmost importance is I told them when I’ll be taking questions. I’ll be asking for them before I close my presentation.
Having people asking questions throughout a presentation is a big problem.
• What do you do if they ask early in your talk about something you’ve scheduled to deliver near the end of your speech?
• Raised hands, trying to get your attention, are a distraction to you and the audience.
• What if you don’t know the answer?
• Time management can be a huge challenge.
• How many times have you been to a presentation where the speaker says something like, “Oops! It appears we’re running late. I’ve got 15 slides more slides to show and only 10 minutes left!”
Nugget No. 7
Constantly take the temperature of your audience. You’re the only one speaking, but the audience is communicating with you with their eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and body language. Many of those nonverbal communication elements are involuntary and carry a message. Believe what you see!
• A confused facial expression could convey they don’t understand what you said—restate your point differently.
• Leaning forward shows interest.
• Crossed arms can indicate disagreement with your position.
• Nodding heads show agreement. Side-to-side head movement doesn’t.
Take their temperature by periodically asking questions such as:
• “Does that make sense?”
• “Am I making myself clear?”
After asking, look at them for responses and make adjustments to your presentation, as needed.
Nugget No. 8
Develop your own style! Each of you has a ‘style.’ Continually refine and hone it to be the best it can be. Trying to be someone else can be stressful! Here’s what I mean:
The Toastmaster Club I belonged to for years had many outstanding speakers who possessed talents beyond the ability to deliver a great speech.
Some could sing or play an instrument. Others danced, while a few could do magic tricks or juggle. Sometimes those talents would be incorporated into their presentations. I couldn’t, and still can’t do any of those things. Each time I tried, the results were terrible.
Other members had delivery styles from always being humorous, to addressing members in a good, professorial manner. Again, my efforts to ‘speak’ as those skilled individuals did failed miserably.
I gotta be me, and you gotta be you! That doesn’t mean we can’t improve. The Japanese have a word, kaizen, which means continual improvement. Practice it.
From the slides of my presentation to the words I speak and the way I deliver them, all are continually being tweaked. I don’t recall who said it, but “the road to perfection never ends!”
Nugget No. 9
Find a Friendly Face. There are people in the audience who love you and your presentation. They’re leaning forward, with their eyes and ears focused on you! Find them! They will energize you! If you see sour faces or ones disengaged with your talk, don’t take their nonverbal communication personally. Move on to others in the audience. People bring all kinds of ‘stuff’ with them: money issues, family challenges and work problems.
Some may be listening intently to you without showing it. I once had a lady compliment me on a presentation after I had formed the opinion, because of her body language, she didn’t like my talk.
By taking the temperature of the audience and finding friendly faces, your anxiety will lessen, and the quality of your presentation will rise!
In the next column, we’ll look at more ‘nuggets.’ Till then, make next your presentation…NO SWEAT!