In our last several columns, we’ve offered nuggets to lessen the fear of public speaking. We don’t want to completely rid ourselves of those butterflies in our stomach. Put that nervous energy into your presentation. A presentation without energy is boring!
This article will introduce the final nine nuggets. I guarantee the fear can be lessened by using these nuggets and the benefits go far beyond public speaking. Getting out of your comfort zone increases your comfort zone!
Nugget No. 15
Unless you are conducting a workshop and handouts are absolutely essential, there are good reasons not to use them.
• Your audience will be looking at them when they should be watching you. Nonverbal communication trumps verbal communication. We believe what we see. If the audience is looking at handouts, they are missing the message your facial expressions, gestures, and body language is sending.
• We cannot multitask: People reading are not listening. This is one reason bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation are bad: Bullet points kill—kill the bullet points!
• Shuffling papers to see what’s next and review what was said is distracting.
• If the audience is not paying attention to you, the speaker, your anxiety will probably increase. You want them looking at you!
Nugget No. 16
A good laugh from the audience can be icing on the cake for presenters. But don’t expect all audiences to react the same, and don’t let it set you back if you don’t get the reaction you wanted.
Do not tell an audience you’re going to give a humorous talk. If the laughs aren’t there, you will be the joke!
The best humor is self-effacing, (I’ll never run out of material!) Never use someone in the audience as the brunt of your humor.
Nugget No. 17
People have three styles of learning. They are, with their respectful percentages:
1. Visual—65 percent
2. Auditory—30 percent
3. Kinesthetic (learning by doing)—5 percent
By presenting to two of more of those styles, the odds of your audience ‘getting it’ are dramatically increased.
Props come in all shapes and sizes and should be relevant to your presentation.
• Show them when appropriate.
• Put them away when finished talking about them.
• If using PowerPoint, ‘blank’ the screen. The attention of the audience will shift from the screen to you, the presenter. This is powerful.
Nugget No. 18
Have Several ‘Spare Tires’
Trust me on this one. Stuff happens. Projector bulbs can burn out, computers may crash, and props do fail. Thoughts of any of these occurring can bring on angst—lots of it!
To reduce having the ‘wheels come off’ and not getting them back on, have several ‘spare tires’ and practice using them before your ‘trip.’
Here’s one of the things I do to keep nervousness at bay: I’m a mac user, and Keynote software is my choice for presentations. I back up those slide presentations, on a thumb drive and in the cloud in formats, including Keynote, PowerPoint and PDF.
Nugget No. 20
Use Deep Breathing to Lessen Tension
Inhale slowly and deeply to the count of 10. Then exhale slowly and completely to a similar count. Do it several times when nervousness creeps up on you and before delivering a presentation. Try it because it works!
Nugget No. 21
Napoleon Hill, the famous personal success author, once said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive, he can achieve.” Follow this advice and picture the audience liking you. Picture yourself being at ease and in command of your presentation. This technique, like deep breathing exercises, works!
Nugget No. 22
Practice. Practice. Practice.
This is my ‘silver nugget’ for lessening the fear of public speaking. Think about this: Would a professional singer, musician, or actor merely ‘show up’ for their big show, concert, or play? No! How about athletes who earn their living through sports? Do you think they just ‘show up’ for the big game? No!
All the above professionals practice, rehearse, and repeat that drill many times before their performance. Why would anyone think you can give an important presentation by just ‘winging it?’
Folks who present for a living advise to practice one hour for each minute of presentation. (Read the last sentence, again. It is not a misprint!)
Nugget No. 23
My ‘golden nugget: Speak! Speak! Speak!
Like most things in life, “the learning is in the doing!”
• Watch other speakers.
• Listen to audio books.
• Read about reducing the fear of public speaking.
• View videos on the subject.
• Practice in your ‘mind’s eye.’
However, nothing will make you a better presenter better than speaking. The more you do it, the less anxious you’ll be, and your presentations will improve dramatically.
In the next columns, we’ll look at other aspects of public speaking and presentation skills. Till then, make next your presentation…NO SWEAT!