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The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of the public speaking training book Fearless Presentations published by The Leader’s Institute. You can purchase the entire public speaking training book from our website by clicking here.
10 Ways to Reduce Public Speaking Anxiety & Fear of Public Speaking
PART 2: (View Part 1)
The big day came, and as I walked into the room, trembling from the fear and pressure, I noticed that every single person had on a nicely pressed suit. I was wearing slacks with a shirt and tie, but no jacket. I didn’t even own a jacket. The pressure began to build even more.
As the first presenter was introduced, she walked to the front of the room, sat down a manila folder, turned on her overhead projector (this was in the days before PowerPoint,) and put up a beautiful, color-filled slide. Why in the world had I not thought of using an overhead! My palms began to sweat profusely.
The second presenter had the audience laughing and nodding their heads within minutes. He created a true rapport with the audience. I didn’t have any jokes in my presentation, and I couldn’t see how anyone would be nodding in agreement with me, because I was just prepared to recite some facts. My stomach churned.
It was now my turn. As the director called my name, I stood and moved my hands to pick up my notes. When I did, the napkin that my hand was resting on came with me—attached as a result of the sweat that now seemed to be pouring from my palms. As I peeled it off, I picked up my notes, and I could see the pages shaking in my hand. I just prayed that the people in the audience couldn’t see it.
As I spoke my first sentence, I could feel the beads of sweat on my forehead, so I pulled the sleeve of my white shirt across my brow. A few seconds later I used the other sleeve and continued alternating them throughout the presentation.
I talk pretty fast anyway, but when I get nervous, ITalkRealFast! SoFastThatItWouldMakeYourEyeballsSpin! I gave my entire 15-minute speech in less than five minutes and said every word.
As I looked into the audience, no one was nodding. Most people just had blank looks of confusion. When I sat down, there was utter silence in the room. The director called a break. I looked at my sleeves, and they were soaked to my skin. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl under the table and die. If I could have walked out of that room and never laid eyes on any of those people again, I would have gladly done so.
About seven months later, when the board came back to my school, my adviser pulled me aside and told me that they had told him that they would not be extending an offer to have me back. I was crushed. I had never failed this badly at anything.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Right or wrong, people form a perception about our competence based on how confidently we present ourselves. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you went to the doctor for a pain that you’ve been having in your side. The surgeon who is examining you says the following, “Uhm… Well, uh you know? You might, uhm, have to have your uh appendix taken out.” How competent are you going to feel about this doctor’s ability to treat you? Or even worse—the doctor says all the right things, but as he looks over your chart, you notice his hand shaking. It doesn’t matter how many degrees this person has or how many initials the doctor has after his or her name. You will probably question the doctor’s competence.
That is exactly what happened to me during my presentation. I realized that even though I had been a respected and valued employee of the company, the negative perception that was formed about me during my presentation counteracted all of the goodwill I had previously developed. I vowed that the same thing would never happen to me again. I was going to do whatever I had to do to make sure that the next time I gave a presentation, I would give the audience a true representation of my abilities. I was willing to attend any public speaking training, any presentation seminar, and any type of program to eliminate my public speaking anxiety.
Over the last ten years of attending and teaching public speaking training, I have identified a number of simple, key things that anyone can do to overcome fear and nervousness in front of a group. I have used these things myself with great success. Over the last ten years in my public speaking classes, I’ve watched the confidence of thousands of people grow and develop in a matter of minutes as a result of using these few simple techniques.
On the following pages, you will find an outline of tips and techniques that successful speakers have used for centuries to create solid, polished first impressions and deliver dynamic, fearless presentations.
A number of years ago in an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld talked about a poll that had been conducted in which Americans said that their number one fear was public speaking, and that the fear of death was number five. He said, “…that would mean that at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy. “
Below are a few simple things you can do to ease some of your nervousness and anxiety from public speaking.
- Realize 90% of Nervousness doesn’t Show: Most of the symptoms of nervousness, butterflies, sweaty palms, faster heart beat, etc., never show to an audience. If you set your notes down on a lectern, the audience won’t be able to see even shaky hands.
- Written Material: Never, never, never, never, never write out a talk word for word unless absolute accuracy must be maintained as in legal situations. Otherwise, just make brief notes. A little spontaneity adds a tremendous amount of character to your talk. Written speeches are almost always boring, and when you read text, it is much more difficult to make a connection with your audience.
- Committing Your Talk to Memory: Never memorize a talk word for word. Memorizing a talk word for word can actually lead to more anxiety. If something out of the ordinary happens or if you ever lose your place, you will put an extreme amount of pressure on yourself to get back. A better way to memorize a talk is to narrow your talk down to just a few main ideas and commit those main ideas to memory. If during your presentation you have additional time, you can add additional details to the main ideas, and if time runs short (which it often does,) you can rest assured that your main points were delivered.
- Show up Early: Get an idea for the setting, mingle with your audience, and test any equipment that you will be using.
- Take a Few Deep Breaths: When many of us get nervous, we tend to take shallow breaths. This robs our brain of oxygen and can create a negative reinforcing cycle. What happens is that we originally take a shallow breath out of nervousness and try to speak. Somewhere along the way, we realize that we won’t be able to finish our sentence, so we speed up. That makes us more nervous, so we breathe even more shallow. When this cycle occurs, just pause, take a deep breath, and continue.
- Look for a Friendly Face: As you are approaching the front, make eye contact with a few friendly faces in the audience. Smile, and they will probably smile back. It will put you both at ease.
- Drop your Hands: Your hands and your gestures can add great impact to your delivery, but when you are not using your hands, just drop them to your side. It will feel awkward at first, but dropping your hands to your side is the most natural gesture you can use. For instance, when you walk down the hallway at your office, do you cup your hands in front as you walk? Is it more natural to lock your hands behind you when you walk? Probably not. In most situations, it is natural to just let your hands drop to your side. When you do this, it will allow you to make more purposeful gestures when you need to. (See Chapter 6 on Gestures and Movement.)
- Speak Only on Topics in which You are an Expert: One of the reasons that speech classes and toasting clubs can actually make people more nervous is that the topics we choose to present on during these activities are topics that we put together after just a little research. If someone were going to ask you to present about a business topic, the main reason would be because you are the most qualified person to speak about the topic. You are qualified because of your experience. Your delivery should be as casual as if your best friend came up to you and asked, “How is your project going?” This will allow you to deliver your topic is a way that makes the audience feel as if you are talking to each person directly.
- Be Excited about Your Topic: If you aren’t, no one else will be either. If you give your audience energy, they will give energy back to you.
- Practice: Rather than practicing your presentation in front of a mirror (when we do this, we tend to find things to nitpick that an audience would never notice,) try practicing your delivery by using it in a conversation with a friend or loved one. “Hey, have I told you about the project I’m working on…”
After training thousands of people to become better speakers, one thing that I know for sure is that EVERYONE gets nervous when they present. Exceptional speakers just don’t show it. In fact, in many cases, the great speaker will use that nervousness to his or her advantage. The next chapter will show you how.
Other Public Speaking Training Resources
You can purchase the entire Fearless Presentations public speaking training online class from our website by visiting our Online Store. Our High Impact Leaders class and Fearless Presentations public speaking training course are also great ways to conquer the fear of public speaking and eliminate public speaking anxiety.
Free Public Speaking Tips:
Eliminate Public Speaking Fear and Presentation Anxiety
Tips to Ease Public Speaking Anxiety and Presentation Fear.
The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of the book Fearless Presentations published by The Leader’s Institute®. In this chapter, Doug Staneart, CEO of The Leader’s Institute®, reveals 10 Free Public Speaking Tips about how to Eliminate Public Speaking Fear and Presentation Anxiety. You can purchase the entire book from our website by clicking here.
You can also purchase this session in an online seminar for just a very small investment. The online public speaking seminar covers the ten tips below in a video of Doug Staneart delivering them personally to a live audience as well as a different version of the content in an MP3 format so you can download the seminar to your iPad or music device. To order the seminar, visit our online seminar store.
Public Speaking Fear & Presentation Anxiety
When I was in college, I had an internship with a large oil and gas company. While I was working there, I felt like I really impressed the people around me with my work ethic, determination, resourcefulness, and productivity. Many of the projects that I worked on were finished weeks and even months ahead of schedule to everyone’s surprise.
But at the end of the internship, I, along with a half-dozen other interns, was asked to give a presentation to the executive committee who created the intern program. In this meeting were not only my boss, but my boss’s boss, three vice-presidents, all of my intern peers, and various observers.
In the beginning, I didn’t think much of this presentation, but as the day moved closer and closer, I began to get more and more nervous. I was the youngest person ever to be accepted to this program—just 19 years-old. The next youngest intern was 23 and was in her second year of law school. So, I felt a little out-classed to say the least.
My boss told me that this would be a great opportunity to shine. He said that if I could just get across to this group how productive I had been to the company, then I would have no problem getting a generous permanent offer from the company upon graduation. That just made me even more nervous.
I wrote, memorized, and practiced my speech over and over. I had a flawless delivery. I realized that I needed a few visuals, so I created a couple of black and white cut-outs of topics I’d be covering.
Regardless of what industry that you are in or what expertise that you have, you first have to realize that you are the expert at something, and the knowledge that you have is valuable to someone. When I was 14 years old, my dad owned a home remodeling company, and every winter, I crawled under houses helping him repair frozen pipes that had burst. After a couple of winters, I had so much experience doing this, that I could do it in my sleep. So as a teenager, I was an expert at repairing ruptured PVC pipes. After I graduated college, my first real job was working for an oil company doing title work for mineral rights. After a couple of years, I had not only gotten pretty good at it, but I had also trained a number of new people. My third year in the training industry, I generated a half-million dollars worth of sales for the first time, and that same year, I also received a couple of awards for outstanding instruction. It took me five years as an entrepreneur to attain my first million dollars, but it only took about eight more months to generate my second million. With each of these accomplishments, I became the expert, because I had information that the general public didn’t have (even when my expertise was repairing frozen pipes).
Don’t under estimate your knowledge. Your experience has made you the expert.
One of my friends in college was going to school to be an elementary school teacher, and she absolutely hated math. However, once she graduated, she found out that in the State of Texas, Math and Science teaches got paid an extra fee, because teachers with this expertise were in high demand. So, she decided to be a fourth grade math teacher. Those of us who knew her pretty well were laughing when we asked her about her career choice, because for the three or four years that we had known her, she complained over and over about the math, algebra, and trigonometry classes that she had to take in school. These classes were her nemesis. After a little teasing from us, she replied by saying, “In order to teach fourth grade math, I just have to be an expert at fifth grade math,” and one of those prophetic life lessons for me was learned. In order to be an expert at something, you just need to have a little more knowledge than your audience.
For instance, let’s say that you are a restaurant manager who turned around a struggling location. How many other managers are there in the world who would want to hear how you did it? You’d be the expert at restaurant turnarounds (especially if you were able to do it a second or third time). Or, if you are a dentist who is really good at getting your patients to show up for every sixth month check-up, then other dentists would pay dearly to figure out how you do it. Whatever you do on a day-to-day basis makes you the expert at that activity.
Because you are the expert, you have credibility in the marketplace.
I had been teaching presentation skills classes for about ten years, and I ended up getting a contract to teach presentation skills and leadership for members of the Associated General Contractors. After teaching classes for these member companies for a couple of years, the participants began to think of me as being an expert in the commercial construction industry. Keep in mind that I had never once built a big skyscraper. In fact, I knew very little about the day to day operations of general contractors. However, because I had worked with so many general contractors in that first couple of years, I had more expertise in the industry than other leadership and presentation coaches. I had developed a specialty.
A friend of mine decided that every sales trainer targets car dealerships as potential customers, so instead, he decided to specialize in conducting sales training for salespeople who sell trailer houses. Since he had very little competition in this industry, he quickly became the go-to expert.
One of my clients hired me to coach a few of his employees who were preparing for what he called a “short list” presentation, which was a presentation where a “short list” of qualified vendors were competing for a really big contract. Although everyone in the room knew more about building skyscrapers than I did, I knew way more about designing and delivering presentations than any of them did. So, with my coaching, they were able to borrow my expertise to deliver their presentation in a much more fluid and effective way.
After doing this kind of training a few times with some pretty remarkable success, I quickly became known as the “short list” presentation coach, and I had developed a brand new expertise.
Ask yourself, “What am I really, really good at?” and you will quickly find out what your expertise is. Once you realize that you are the expert, the rest is relatively easy…
Doug Staneart is the CEO of The Leader’s Institute® and creator of the Fearless Presentations® public speaking course. He is based in Dallas, Texas, but the class is taught in cities all over the world.
One of the easiest ways to reduce public speaking anxiety is to strengthen your speaking skills. The fear of standing up and giving a presentation to your peers is still of the biggest anxieties that plagues the business world, but it is a simple challenge to overcome by strengthening your public speaking. In fact, with a few simple tips, you can make those butterflies and sweaty palms go away.
- Most Speakers are Just as Nervous as You Are: Have you ever wondered why some speakers look so poised during their presentations but when you perform, you feel that your nervousness is radiating to the audience. I’ll give you a little clue or insight on how you are not as transparent as you think. The majority what you think others can see or detect is not visible to your audience no matter what you may perceive, it’s just that you are feeling all these forms of nervousness and think that others can see your butterflies, sweaty palms, can detect when you are miss-delivering some of the content that you may have left out. The truth is that the aforementioned never show to the audience. I remember delivering my first seminar and thinking that the participants will not take me as a credible speaker/presenter because I feel nervous, after panning around the room for a while I realized that they could not detect what I was feeling which in turn reduced my inner anxious feelings giving me the confidence to feel like a seasoned presenter.
- Preparation (or lack of it) will Either Cause Anxiety or Reduce It: If you had to give a speech on yourself or even a hobby, interest or subject that you were passionate about I would venture to say you would breeze right through it comfortably.This is why organizing yourself properly before giving a presentation on an topic that you are unfamiliar with. One of the biggest causes of anxiety before a presentation is lack of preparation. In addition to knowing your material, you may also want to do some research on your audience. This will give an understanding of the type of people you will be delivering to and create a sense familiarity with your audience. For example; I gave a Time Management Seminar to group of Social Service employees for the first time. I did some investigation that gave me one clue as to the personalities and industry that I would be delivering my presentation to. Social workers tend to be heavy multitaskers that have little time to deal with many issues. I also made contact with the faciliating manager and asked a few key questions on what they were trying to achieve with through the seminar. I would then have the proper ammo to anticipate any of their current situations which gave me the confidence going in that I could handle their questions adequately.
- Avoid Memorizing Your Entire Talk: When have you had your most effective presentation? It may have been an informal one, and it was probably very effective because you did not rely on any notes. This is how you should be delivering your presentations, speeches, seminars ect. When you are tethered to your content verbatim, which I admit I have done in the past, it kills the flow and authenticity. The tendency here is to not want to leave anything out of your delivery and therefore you cling to your act of memorization, but the magic begins when you let go. You can actually have a layout in your mind that starts with an introduction, main points, and of coarse a conclusion. Believe it or not if you follow a formula everything will fall into place the speech or presentation will build upon itself. You can even come up with an acronym to help guide your through your presentation.
- Speak on Topics where You have Real World Experience: As I mentioned above the most credible sounding speeches or presentations are the ones in which you have actual experience in, not to say that you cannot relate your previous experience to similar topics or expertise. You will also be perceived as an expert. Your approach should be confident and deliberate. Also when you speak on a topic that you have had a real world experience, chances are that you will have some stories to integrate through your presentation, why are stories so effective? It is because in every story there is some portion or persona that the audience can relate to.
So to reduce your nervousness and or anxiety, realize that your peers are also nervous and you are “normal”, prepare in advance, avoid memorizing your entire speech, and choose topics that you know very well. If you do this, you will deliver a great presentation. Also remember that your speeches should sound natural and credible and you should always be prepared for the unprepared.
How many times have you sat through a seemingly unending presentation that used slides, wishing you were in the dentist’s chair getting a root canal instead?
Many people in the working world where slide presentations are used seem to have forgotten one of the golden rules of making a good presentation:
Don’t make yourself obsolete!
Designing a great presentation requires that you are the central player in it. Any visual aid that you select to use to enhance your presentation is just that – an aid. Too often we find that people are designing their slides simultaneously with designing their presentation, or worse, designing the slides first. What you end up with is basically a script that the presenter is using to read from the screen.
Your presentation slides should NOT be able to stand alone without you as the presenter. If they do, then you have just removed yourself from the equation, and reduced your role in presenting the slides to one of an annoying commentator who reads what people can just as easily read themselves. On their laptops or other devices. In their offices.
They no longer need you.
Does anyone really want that?
If you as a presenter are obsolete, does that mean that you in your role or job are less vital? We wonder…
Design your presentation FIRST. You should evaluate many factors in doing this – your audience, your objectives, your desired outcomes, the amount of time you have, etc. Once you’ve designed your entire presentation, THEN come back and think about how slides could enhance your points – not make them for you. Here are three basic rules of thumb to go by when designing your slides:
- Less is more! Use pictures to make your points. Our minds like pictures and we’ll retain the information longer. When you do use words, make sure they are no more than six words across and six lines down on the slide. Anything more is too much.
- Stick to the point! When using words, choose them carefully. Create questions or short phrases that require explanation and elaboration from you. You are, after all, the presenter! Also, consider revealing them one at a time so that your audience stays with you.
- Try to incorporate other visuals! If you can use a prop or sample that your audience can see in three dimensions or even touch, it will support your presentation much more strongly than slides alone.
Above all else, remember to evaluate your presentation before you give it. If someone can read it and take what you want them to take from it without you saying a word, scrap all the slides and start again!
Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.
Interested in a Team Building Event of Your Own?
Quick Presentation Skills Tip
We all want to deliver presentations that will engage our audience from the moment a presentation begins, but there’s something you can do to capture your audience’s attention before the presentation even starts.
Have a great title.
The key to a great title is to include the result of the presentation in the title. For example, a title such as “2011 Financials” is not so great because for one thing, it’s not very interesting, and secondly, we don’t know what the result was. A title such as, “2011 Was a Year of Growth in X Industry and a Year of Challenge in Y Industry” is better for two reasons: it’s more interesting and gives the audience a clear idea of what the outcome was in 2011. In most cases, it’s better to give the result at the beginning so that the audience knows exactly where the presentation is going. It will make the presentation more memorable in the long run.
If you like this Public Speaking Tip, Check Out More Below:
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Upcoming Public Speaking Classes
Below is a list of the upcoming Fearless Presentations ® presentation skills courses in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Fearless Presentations ® is a 2-Day public speaking course that is held in select cities all over the world, so if you don’t see your city below, just visit the seminar schedule webpage for all classes and an interactive map where you can access upcoming workshops by city.
If you want to reduce public speaking fear or develop presentation skills, there is no better way than with Fearless Presentations ®. In two-days, our certified instructors can help you get rid of the butterflies, think more clearly when you stand to speak, and deliver confident, professional presentations with a whole lot less preparation time. Participants receive all manuals and training materials, one-on-one presentation coaching from their instructor, and video taped feedback so they can easily see their progress as the class progresses.
Click any of the Links Below for Details about a Class or Seminar
- 2012 Jun 5-6 Tampa FL
- 2012 Jun 7-8 New York NY
- 2012 Jun 12-13 Cincinnati OH
- 2012 Jun 21-22 Chicago IL
- 2012 Jul 19-20 Washington DC
- 2012 Jun 25-26 Baltimore MD
- 2012 Jul 10-11 Detroit MI
- 2012 Jul 12-13 Houston TX
- 2012 Jul 19-20 Washington DC
- 2012 Jul 19-20 Los Angeles CA
- 2012 Jul 24-25 Phoenix AZ
- 2012 Jul 26-27 Kansas City MO
- 2012 Jul 26-27 Atlanta GA
- 2012 Aug 21-22 Dallas TX
- 2012 Aug 21-22 Boston MA
- 2012 Aug 23-24 Philadelphia PA
- 2012 Aug 23-24 Seattle WA
- 2012 Aug 28-29 Miami FL
- 2012 Aug 30-31 Indianapolis IN
Not sure yet or have questions? Complete the form below, and an instructor will contact you.
When folks go through our presentation skills classes, they are often surprised at how simple we make designing and delivering fairly complex presentations. In fact, one of the things that we cover in the Fearless Presentations class is how to design an entire presentation, from start to finish, complete with a slide deck in fifteen minutes or less. Class members are often shocked at how fast they can design presentations that would have typically taken hours (or weeks) to complete. Below is a simple checklist that you can use when you design PowerPoint presentations in order to speed up the preparation time and reduce your fear of public speaking.
Presentation Skills Checklist
- Step One: Start with the Presentation (what you want to say) and finish with the slideshow. Most people start with the visual aids and, eventually, realize they have too many slides or too many points and start cutting content. So they end up with a Swiss-Cheese presentation. Start with the presentation first, then choose slides that help you better explain the content.
- Step Two: Choose a Compelling Topic (Title). Pretend that you are an audience member, and ask yourself what you’d what to hear about related to the topic. This is more difficult than you might think, because, since we know so much about the topic, we tend to want to tell the audience EVERYTHING that we know. However, that is not practical, so you have to give the audience only what they need, right now. For instance, if you are giving a financial report to the board, they are going to want to know about profit, but if you are giving a report to the sales team, they will be more interested in revenue compared to prior years. think of your audience when you choose your topic.
- Step Three: Choose three to five key points to expand upon. Literally… three, four, or five points… TOTAL. Thinking about your topic, choose your key points by determining what are the three to five most important concepts related to the topic that the audience needs to know about. If you cover more points, the audience won’t remember them anyway, so focus on the most important points.
- Step Four: Insert Proof for each Point. Insert a few stories, examples, facts, analogies, demonstrations, or samples that prove that your key point is true. If you prove each point along the way, then the group will very easily agree with your conclusion at the end of the presentation.
- Step Five: Now Create Your Slides: Once you have the speech designed, now go back and choose visual aids to better explain your content.
Follow this checklist, and you will be able to create any presentation very quickly.
PowerPoint Tip Video: Use Pictures Properly to Better Explain Your Presentation
This is PowerPoint Tip #6 of Ten in the PowerPoint Tip Video Series. Pictures can add a lot of clarity to your presentation, but only when we use them properly. Pictures just for decoration sake can add confusion, but remember that a picture is “worth a thousand words,” so an appropriate picture at the correct time can make your words even more clear. This video gives a number of tips related to adding pictures and other visual aids to your PowerPoint Slideshows to make the presentations easier to understand and easier to deliver.
For additional PowerPoint Tips, access our online Video Seminar, How to Do a PowerPoint which gives you all ten videos as well as written tips that will help you design and deliver better presentations.