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Tips for overcoming public speaking fears

Mon 22 August 2011

Many people I meet are keen to do more networking to generate new business - however, often their fear of standing up and presenting about what their business does causes such nervousness that it prohibits them from getting involved.

 

At our BNI Networking meetings throughout London all members are given the opportunity of sharing a '60 seconds' about their business each week - and one business is offered the opportunity to give a 10 presentation to showcase their business.

 

So, whether you are presenting at a networking meeting, or a new business pitch - then these quick tips are designed to help you overcome any public speaking fears:

 

Know what you're talking about

 

When you know the subject you are talking about you immediately gain an air of confidence.  So, be sure you know your subject inside out. Create a story about how you started your business or launched your product/service or share a customer experience. Everybody loves a story. By telling a story not only do you engage your audience, but you ensure you don't lose track of what you're talking about too and remember facts tell, stories sell.

 

Get to know your audience

 

Research your audience so that you have a good understanding of their businesses and needs. Knowing your audience again grows confidence. You can identify with them and pick out elements of your presentation in a targeted way. If presenting to an audience you don't know, then be sure to do some research beforehand - so you are prepared. If there's time, ask the audience to tell you who they are and what they do. That way, it's more of a two way conversation. They're only people after all - once you get to know them, you'll feel more confident talking to them.

 

 

Know your space

 

Familiarise yourself with the room you are going to present in. Walk around and be sure to try out any audio visual elements and get comfortable with troubleshooting any technical glitches. There's nothing worse than the screen going blank midway through your presentation. Be sure you are equipped and prepared for basic glitches.

 

No sorry, sorry, sorry

 

Do not start your presentation with a line such as "sorry I'm not very good at presenting or speaking in public, so please bear with me". Such starts are a complete no no. It's really starting off on the wrong foot if you do that. And also should things go awry during the presentation or you lose your way - then rather than constantly apologising instead, smile and breathe and stay cool. Remember, pauses are allowed, in fact, they can often add significant impact in a very positive way. You have to portray that you are in total control at all times, don't let the audience know anything other than that.

 

Rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse some more

 

There's never a truer statement than 'practice makes perfect'. Actually it’s perfect practice that makes total perfection but that’s another story. Run through your slides in the mirror - watch yourself, video yourself if need be or simply test out the presentation on friends or family. Be constructive and develop a delivery style that works for you. The more you do it, the better you get and the more confident you will be.

 

Create resources to keep you on track

 

Whether it's a PowerPoint presentation you are working with, or some simple notes to refer to, create resources that help to keep you on track. For example, if I am delivering a PowerPoint, then I will print out the sides and add highlights points to them (ideally no more than 3 or 4). These points highlight the key messages I want to convey. So even if I go 'off road' a little - I have a reminder of the main points I want to get across.

 

 

Create coping strategies

 

And finally, relax. Take big deep breaths - and if you do falter, simply pause, breathe and smile and, say things like; 'ok', 'got that', 'all clear', 'does that make sense' etc, and then simply continue, as if any pause was intentional. Remember, you're audience won't know if you missed a bit - so don't be so hard on yourself, and go with the flow...

 

There are more things you can be doing...and i'll be sharing more tips and ideas in future posts, but meanwhile starting with these elements will get you off to a flying start.

 

Any other tips and ideas for combating public speaking fears? Do share, would love to hear your tips too...

 

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

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