“To the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy,” Jerry Seinfeld
Studies have shown that some of us actually fear public speaking more than death. This fear holds us back from career opportunities that come with being a confident speaker.
Whether you simply want to get comfortable presenting in the office or you’ve got your sights set on becoming an industry authority, our tips will help you overcome the fear of presentations and public speaking.
We’re sharing how to craft killer presentation content, preparing yourself and what to do on the day of the presentation.
Understand the core message
This is the heart of your presentation.
A great speech or presentation starts with really understanding the details of your message and why it matters to the audience.
What are you really telling them? What should they be learning here? How will hearing this message benefit them?
Each part of your presentation should circle back to the core message and support it.
Structure your presentation
Whether you’re using slides or not, structuring your presentation can help your audience remember more of the message. If you’re new to presenting, a structure will help you stay on track too.
Create and outline your message and assemble your presentation with the basic presentation structure.
- Introduction – Open with a story, what is your message and why your audience should care?
- Body – Main points around the core message. Use data/facts to support your message.
- Conclusion – Wrap-up and summarise main points, recommendations to be drawn from your presentation.
Establish credibility by using data and factual evidence to amplify the point of your core message.
Open with a story to grab the audience’s attention
“Those who tell the stories rule society.” Plato
Our brains are programmed for stories, they help us relate and are memorable.
Kicking off your presentation with a story is a great way to grab your audience’s attention. Personal storytelling is a particularly effective way to build a connection with your audience, it’s a skill worth learning.
Your story should be concise; approx 60 seconds. It should include a conflict or problem to solve and deliver a ‘lesson learned’ which speaks to the heart of the presentation’s message.
A few other possibilities are opening with a puzzle or a question to get the audience focused and thinking on the idea you’re about to present.
Now you’ve crafted a killer presentation or speech, you should be feeling confident about your content. Let’s move on to tackling how to deal with fears around presenting itself.
Practice, practice, practice (not just in front of your mirror)
Confidence crushes fear and practice increases confidence.
Not taking your presentation for several dry runs prior to the real thing leaves you wide open to the risk it won’t turn out how it sounds in your mind.
Why you need to practise out loud:
Having no real idea of how long it takes to deliver your speech before the day is risky.
Rehearsing the content gives your voice time to find the sweet spot for a smooth delivery. You’ll have a chance to practise the right pace and put the emphasis on all the right words and points.
Cull unnecessary information
Great presentations are efficient and straight to the point. A few practice rounds and you’ll likely find a few things that can be dropped.
Practising in front of a mirror and your dog won’t cut it. You’ll have a far more effective outcome if you rehearse in front of people. Which takes us to the next point…
Ask for specific feedback
“Great job!” might give you the warm and fuzzies but it’s not constructive enough to improve your performance. You need to ask your practice round audience for specific feedback.
- Was there something they didn’t understand?
- How did they feel about your body language?
- Was there too much jargon?
- What was good and where can you improve?
Assure them they can be completely honest in their critique and set up your phone to film the presentation too. Afterwards you can review their feedback on specific points while seeing it yourself on video.
Pay attention to your body language
Creating amazing content is a solid foundation but don’t forget to spend some time practising your non-verbal language too.
When you present, you want the audience to hear your message in a confident and composed way. Working on your body language will help you do this.
Most of the time, you should be looking directly into the eyes of someone who is listening. Not the same person for the whole presentation, as you begin a new point or sentence, move to a new person. Try not to look at the slide deck too often or over the tops of people’s heads. This does take practice but it’s well worth it.
You’ll appear welcoming and supportive, allowing you to build a connection with the audience.
Steer away from distracting gestures like putting your hands in your pockets, behind your back or crossing your arms.
Instead, gently clasp your hand together around waist level and use small hand gestures from there as you speak.
Quick tips for game day
Arrive 10 – 15 minutes early.
This gives you the chance to settle any jitters by having a chat with attendees.
Go easy on the lattes beforehand.
Coffee will only increase your nerves and you want to avoid any caffeine-fueled shakes on stage.
Spend 5 minutes visualising yourself delivering a successful, confident presentation.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid a dry mouth and drink plenty of H2o before the presentation. Have a bottle or glass of water close while you’re speaking.
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself
We may spend the majority of our workday behind a screen but career progression is still about being seen and heard.
Public speaking is an essential business skill that needs to be learned and developed. A commitment of time and finances to prioritise honing this skill will pay off in the long run.
This is especially true for leaders who need to be able to influence, persuade and take people on a journey. Becoming an excellent presenter can position you as an authority and open up a wealth of career opportunities.
We hope our advice will help zap your anxiety around speaking in public!
Were you once terrified of public speaking but now you’re a confident presenter? How did you do it? We’d love to hear your tips!
With our program Presentations & Speaking, we can help anyone (yes, introverts too!) learn how to become a confident speaker. We cover practical tools for managing nerves, delivering an impactful message and creating polished presentations.