Overcome Your Fear of Public SpeakingTuesday, Jan 08, 2019
Pre-Sales Lead, Regional Offices
I have known many persons who purposefully avoid giving presentations to the extent that they pretend to be sick and don't show up completely to the meeting. The fact is; it is quite normal to be afraid of speaking in public or to small or big group of new people.
In accordance to the vast majority of studies, as Sienfeld once stated, people's biggest fear ever is public speaking. Number two is death. Yes, he said that death is the second reason. Does this sound sane or right? If we put two and two together, we will find that to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you will be in a much better state in the casket instead of having to do the eulogy.
As a consultant, and almost on daily basis, I need to deliver presentations in closed room meetings, auditoriums or on stage in events. I usually don’t think twice before stepping out and delivering my presentation that might also contain heavy discussions with audience or interrupters trying to break you presentation or speech intentionally.
Its a fact that I wasn’t always this prepared. Let me take you few steps backward. Growing up in my career as a developer, I had few public speaking interactions to deliver trainings. It wasn't that challenging as it was done is a very friendly environment. I didn’t realize, by then, the magnitude of challenge of speaking in front of new people in a new platform or medium.
One day I was requested to demo a product we are working on a new customer. The fear started building up. With every new piece of information I get, the panic increases. I knew my company's management will be attending. I knew there will be a large number of people from the customer side. The presenter who preceded me was practically flawless during his/her presentation. During the whole meeting I didn’t exchange a single word with anyone. Then I was asked to present my part. Needless to say, I couldn’t speak!
Well, it was a bad day! It took some time for me to overcome it. But I knew that I can overcome this and I was determined to do so. There are lots of very useful articles that I read. Yet, the following tips are what really made a difference for me.
Write the complete script of any new presentation.
Write every word you want to say. This will not only allow you to feel great about what you are going to say, it will also help you remember every word. It will drastically help you if you encounter a small panic attack coming your way during the presentation. All you need to do, with confidence, is to just look at your notes and read. Most importantly, writing down what you have to say allows you to visualize every word. It stops that pitfall where we often think that we have all the key words or terminology we want to mention or stress on during the presentation but when we stand there in front of the audience we don’t find the correct words.
Memorize your intro by heart.
Well, to be frank, this is the most important tip I can give. You need to memorize your introduction better than your name! If you have the first five minutes of your presentation memorized by heart, you will be able to recite this part smoothly; allowing you to break the ice and giving you much needed confidence. The introduction can be a company profile in case of business presentation, a joke in case of public speaking, or anything that can get you through the first few minutes. Once these minutes pass, you will find yourself talking very normally like you have been doing this all your life!
Embrace the panic.
Panic happens! It will not go away for a long time. You need to understand that you can deliver the presentation while your pulse is quite high; your tongue and hands are shaking and sweat is pouring down your neck. It happened to all of us. And to be frank, it makes people try to support you by asking questions and filling the silence gaps. This is because people actually want you to succeed. Don't perceive that everyone in the room is waiting for you fail.
Practice, practice, practice.
Lots of topics and articles will advise you to record your session to yourself and keep rehearsing. What I found to be very effective is to deliver my presentation to as many people as I can. So get the ball rolling. Deliver the presentation to your parents, friends, your favorite aunt, your kids, your mentor, your colleagues and most importantly your manager. They need to act like they are the real audience. You too need to suit up while you practice! Yes, try to live the experience as accurate as you can and as often as you can. By the time you deliver the actual presentation you will have all the confidence you need.
Familiarize yourself with the venue and the people.
Try to reach few minutes early to set up your presentation. If possible have a go at these five intro minutes you memorized. When people start entering the room, try as much as possible to create a personalised interaction with every and each one of them. This will help in breaking the ice and will make you feel much better about the coming session.
Scream or breathe
There are many ways you can reduce the effect of a panic attack! What working with me is raising my voice and pitch. It reduced my stress. Other people breathe in an out in a rhythm. Research this topic and try different techniques until you find the best one that perfectly fits you.
Don’t compare your first presentation with someone’s 1000 presentation
During the research you do and with normal life, one of the things that build up fear of public speaking is that you watch different people delivering presentations, keynotes speeches and events; and they are killing it! What happens is that you start comparing your speech or presentation with these people thinking that you need to be this good from your first presentation. Well, you don’t! And neither were they when they first started.
Public speaking is a learning path. The first step is just to be able to actually speak and deliver your piece. When you then master this, you can start worrying about how to get people interested and how to win their undivided attention. You will learn how to deliver a 50 minutes speech in 15 minutes for C level audience. You will also learn how to overcome breakers and win them over to your side. All this will come later. Everyone you have seen have been through this path to be able to stand on stage and do his/her best.
Feel good about yourself
It is not a beauty pageant or public speaking competition! No one is checking every part of your body, no one cares if you are thin or fat, and no one cares if you stammer! All what these people want is for you to deliver the information you have to say so that they can leave.
You need to build your self-confidence, remember every good thing you did and remember your successes and achievements. Do not concentrate on your flaws as they are not relevant here. If you must, write a list of you ten most impressive achievements and keep it on your desktop (you got married, you had kids, you had your college degree, you delivered a project, etc.).
It is not how you look or how confident you appear that will allow you to overcome fear of public speaking. It is how much you want to! Believe it. You have what it takes, and yes, it is number one fear, but it is also the fear that people overcome every day.