This is the final part of our blog post series looking at Presentation Skills. In this post, we look at how to overcome your fear of public speaking and controlling your nerves when presenting. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out parts one and two where we look at preparing and delivering your presentation.
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#10 Feeling the Fear
We all feel fear when presenting, even the most experienced speakers. It eats you up inside and scares you in to thinking you can’t do something. It’s linked to comfort zones, we fear the worse and become overly anxious and enter a state of panic (your panic zone). For most people their panic zone is standing up and speaking publicly about a subject. We internalise the fear and it eventually becomes us. We think, ‘what if they laugh at me’, ‘what happens if I make a mistake’. One great way of dealing with this, is an old acting method called, ‘the fourth wall’ that I learnt when studying Constantin Stanislavski’s, ‘An Actor Prepares’.
The concept is simple: the actors do not acknowledge the audience overtly. The audience is looking at the action through an imaginary fourth wall. The rear of the stage is one wall, the sides of the stage are two more walls, and the front of the stage is the fourth wall. When the actors look directly at the audience, they are said to be ‘breaking the fourth wall’. Though sometimes playwrights instruct actors to break the fourth wall for artistic reasons, actors are told not to look directly at the audience. They may look at the fourth wall itself, but not at the audience.
However, as a speaker we need to engage the audience and get our message across, so I use this method but look in 3 different directions instead. Look to the left, the middle and right (looking through the audience). Once I’m enjoying myself I then forget the fourth wall and revert back to the audience. However, don’t make the big mistake committed by many beginner public speakers of just staring at the spot on the back wall. This one technique is a powerful element of successful presentation skills. Occasionally, I might keep eye contact in one direction only and then quickly move on. So if you do feel fear, present information to that fourth wall instead – you’ll be surprised at what a difference this makes.
Practice, practice, practice… but don’t memorize. It’s different for everybody, but I will say one thing: If you practice your presentation only once then you’re going to deliver a pretty poor presentation. Try and practice a month in advance, know all key points and every detail of your slides (if you have them).
As a presenter you should never turn to your visual aid, focus solely on the audience – know what you’re presenting inside out. You can talk into a mirror, talk to a wall, or ask a family member to listen. Do whatever works for you, but make sure it includes practicing out loud so that you can get a sense of timing. Rehearse your speech on your feet at least three times. You can rehearse parts of it in your car or sitting at your desk. But because you will eventually deliver it on your feet (I hope), it’s essential that you rehearse standing. Get used to the feel of delivering your presentation.
Steve Jobs was noted as somebody who was an excellent storyteller and presenter of information, Jobs was also legendary for his preparation. He would rehearse on stage for many hours over many weeks prior to his keynotes and product launches. He knew every detail of every demo and every word on every slide. As a result the presentation was delivered flawlessly. Hours and hours of practice made his presentations look polished, casual, and effortless.
#12 Be Confident
You are presenting for a reason, correct? That reason is that you know more about the subject you are talking about then anyone else, correct? The worse-case scenario is everyone in audience is going to learn something new. If you follow your script of key points and get across your points passionately they’re still going to learn from you. Be confident in your ability and why you are there. Still not confident? Pretend that you’re confident and after a while you will no longer need to pretend that you are… you simply will be!
You already have an advantage over other speakers and these twelve tips will get you started as a successful public speaker. Just a reminder that you are unique just like your audience. Be you and you only. Watch Gary Vaynerchuk presentations on YouTube for just that – he throws the rule book out of the window (maybe stomps on it a few times) and does what he feels comfortable with – which results in powerful, dynamic, interesting and energetic presentations.
If you have any questions you would like answering or need some advice then please do not hesitate to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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