Posts Tagged ‘public speaking fear’

Public Speaking: I Hate Public Speaking

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

So many people hate public speaking.  They’d rather roll around in thumb tax and  take a bath in Tabasco sauce than get up and speak.

  • Where does this fear of public speaking come from?
  • What can you do to tame this fear?
  • Discover the answers in this amusing slide show.
  • Share it with your friends who need it.

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Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

lecternPublic speaking can be the most daunting task because we make it so. No doubt you’ve heard that according to surveys, most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. Of course the major reason is that we are concerned about how others will perceive us.

The truth is that when we engage in public speaking we shape many people’s perceptions about us in a very short time. In many instances, perception dictates reality; so it is important for us to shine in the spotlight.

When people say they are afraid of public speaking, usually they are talking about their delivery more than their content. Clearly both are important, but most people feel in control when it comes to mastering their content for a presentation. They are more worried about how they will appear before their audience.  In the realm of public speaking, we call this delivery. In our public speaking blog we’ve covered much material on this topic. Here is a summary of 19 delivery mistakes:

AVOID

1. Standing right next to the person introducing you. Instead, wait far off to the side.

2. Walking too fast to center stage/floor. Instead, a moderate pace will transmit authority and confidence.

3. Launching immediately into your presentation. Instead, pause a moment and scan your audience and then deliver your power opener.

4. Not shaking the person’s hand who introduced you.

5. Not publicly thanking the person who introduced you.

6. Not smiling, but don’t force it either. The only thing worse than a somber face is the fake public speaking “chucky” smile.

7. Standing in one spot during your entire presentation.

8. Pacing is worse than standing in one spot. A quick tip on effective movement: give 1/3 of the presentation to the center, 1/3 to the left and 1/3 to the right. Always start and finish center.

9. Standing behind the lectern is deadly. GET OUT OF THERE.

10. Reading off slides is probably the #1 way to turn off your audience. Most public speakers do it.

11. Monotone voice is a cure for insomnia. Instead, record your presentation to ensure you’re injecting enthusiasm.

12. Filler is killer. “Umms”, “ahhs” and “like” will destroy your impact not only in public speaking, but also in one-on-one communication. Instead use the pause.

13. Talking too fast. People can’t process as fast as you can talk. It makes you appear not only nervous but lacking authority as well.

14. Poor eye contact is a major challenge with most public speakers.

15. Speaking softly. If you want to aggravate your audience make them strain to hear you.

16. Petrified body. A talking statue amuses nobody. Catch yourself talking to friends.  What does your body language look like? That’s what your audience wants to see.

17. Petrified face. The audience’s face mirrors yours. If you speak with a frozen countenance, you’ll be looking into a sea of expressionless faces. When you tell a story to a friend, your facial expressions accent the words. Do the same when public speaking.

18. Awkward close. Remember nerves spike at the beginning and end. I’ve seen great public speakers fumble to close. Remember your closing rote.

19. Being too conservative. Unless you’re presenting to the board at a stodgy bank, put some fun into your presentation. Most presentations are painful to endure. A dash of sugar will make them love you.

If you avoid these 19 common delivery mistakes, your audience won’t care whether you are nervous because they will like you and appreciate that you gave them an experience instead of a boring book report. You will shine in comparison to the public speakers who precede and follow you, because it’s almost guaranteed that these other presenters fall victim to most of the 19 deadly delivery mistakes.

There you have it! Now pounce on your fear of presenting, and use these delivery skills to enjoy the art of public speaking.

Learn more about our public speaking training program here.

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Public Speaking: Dead Time Kills Your Presentation

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

DeadTreeLast week, I presented magic at the historic Vienna. I started entertaining a few people, but in ten minutes I was completely surrounded, and the room was packed. Then, I looked for my Sharpie marker, which I needed for my next effect. I realized it was in my bag sitting about ten feet away; so I wended my way through the crowd, fished for my marker, and finally handed it to the spectator. This took about twenty seconds. But, when I launched back into my presentation, the crowd had dissipated, and small conversations were flourishing. Now I needed to WORK HARD at rebuilding my crowd and recapturing attention. In short, I had to revive my presentation from the dead.

Shame on me! I teach executives and managers that they must have everything they need at their fingertips BEFORE beginning a presentation. Why?  Because DEAD TIME KILLS. It devours your effectiveness because without the audience’s rapt attention, you are wasting your time and theirs.

What I witnessed physically at a magic performance (people talking and walking) is a caricature of what happens in a business presentation. While it is unlikely that your audience will bolt for the door or launch into small private chats at your presentation, people will “check out” mentally, and they will launch into internal dialogue about something more important or more amusing than you.  It’s that simple.

The solution is simple as well:

1) While rehearsing make a checklist of everything you need, use, or refer to.

2) Setup: on the big day, go through your checklist and physically touch every item you need.

3) Handouts: have them at each seat before you begin. If this is not possible, have somebody else deliver the handouts for you while you continue to present.

4) Index cards: If you rely on index cards for notes, be sure to number them to avoid excessive fumbling should you drop them.  If you rely on powerpoint for notes see here.

5) Do you refer to a manual, text or report? Use Post-it notes as book marks. Flipping around for even five seconds creates enough dead-time to start the bleeding.

6) Avoid or limit conversation that is administrative and directed at only one person. For example, you are presenting on a new accounting policy, and your tech guru asks about systems integration. Even though this is not technically dead time, the conversation acts as white noise for everyone else in the room who is far removed from these details. Unless the issue is urgent, use this response: “excellent question, and you and I need to discuss it in detail after this presentation. Thanks for bringing it up Jim.”

7) Be very aware of any time that ticks where nothing is happening, and understand that it is causing a slow drain of your audience’s attention.

Please do not confuse dead time with the power of the pause. A purposeful pause drastically increases your effectiveness. I’m talking about me fumbling for my Sharpie or you flipping through your 10-Q report trying to find the change in retained earnings while your boss begins to daydream about whether it’s chicken fajita or tuna salad for lunch.  Personally, I’d take the chicken fajita with ranch dressing.

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Public Speaking: Don’t Use PowerPoint As A Crutch

Friday, February 20th, 2009

What an epiphany!  

If you want to learn how to improve public speaking watch other speakers AND observe their audience while they speak.  Consider the faces of the audience members and look at their eyes.  What you will see most of the time is polite interest at best and boredom at worst.  On occasion you will see an engaged audience – what is the speaker doing (or not doing) to get that reaction? Take mental notes.

I watched a woman bore her audience with a Power Point presentation. BUT then, her computer quit. She had no hard copy; so she completed the presentation with NO aids.  This created some tension, which awoke the audience from their mental slumber.  Because she stopped reading from her slides, she connected with the audience.  Their faces changed from exhibiting apathy to shining with interest.  Even though her organization and smooth pace suffered a bit, her ability to connect more than compensated.

What can we learn from this?  PowerPoint is great to make a visually powerful POINT, but not to deliver an entire presentation.  A slightly bumpy presentation without the crutch of Power Point is far more effected that a smooth presentation with it.

What do you think?

Add impact to your presentation using PowerPoint.

Speaking from the heart  & speaking from the heart II

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Public Speaking: Exhibit Confidence

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

In our previous blogs we spoke about veiling the nerves.  Once that is accomplished, we are ready to emulate what a confident person does, even though we may not feel confident from within.

Two “tricks” that we’ve discussed are pausing and moving at a moderate pace.  Here is another technique for exhibiting confidence.

In college, I was already an avid student of public speaking, and I made it a point to compare and contrast students’ public speaking performances with those of our professors. This is not to say that professors are necessarily great presenters, but they do tend to look comfortable and confident.  When students are asked to speak before the class, even though they might have a great presentation prepared, they usually appear nervous and awkward.

Of course the professors typically spoke at a much slower pace, but I also noticed that they tended to lean a great deal.  Later, when I began studying body language, my observation was confirmed by research: confident people will lean (when appropriate) and nervous people will not.  Professors would have one hand in the pocket and, on occasion, put the other hand on a table or desk.  This is a great telegraph of comfort and confidence if it is NOT a formal presentation.  Clearly you would not use this technique giving a eulogy or a presentation to the board of directors.

On a side note, in social situations, for example a house party, studies show that guests who are comfortable and confident will tend to lean as well.

There you  have it, the power of the lean, just make sure you don’t fall over!

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Public Speaking: Fear – Nerves and Confidence

Monday, February 16th, 2009

To date, we have uncovered the secrets to veiling the fear of pubic speaking:

Fear of Public Speaking: Stop shaky hands
Fear of Public Speaking: Stop shaky voice
Fear of Public Speaking: Cure the dry throat
Fear of Public Speaking: Avoid freezing

Once you can successfully manage/veil your public speaking fear, you are ready discover how to emulate confidence, even when you are not feeling that confidence from within.

What are the common denominators of a confident speaker?  After years of studying presenters, both nervous and confident, I’ve uncovered the nuances that make the difference.

1) We have already discussed the first: pacing, which dictates that more confident speakers tend to do everything at a more moderate, purposeful pace.  Nervous speakers tend to race, both physically and verbally.  As as side note, research shows that people who talk too fast and bustle around the office are PERCEIVED as lower in the power chain than those who talk and move at a moderate pace.

2) Confident speakers PAUSE.  Without the pause, people cannot digest as swiftly as you speak.  Of equal importance your pauses clearly communicate that you are confident (irrespective of whether it is true). Always pause when you make a strong point.  Pause when you are searching what to say next.  As we discovered in the avoid freezing blog entry, pausing makes YOU feel awkward but it makes you LOOK confident. Conversely, “umms and ahhs” to fill the silence make YOU feel more comfortable, but they make you LOOK far more awkward.

Public speaking fear can be managed easily and effectively using these techniques.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Avoid Freezing

Friday, February 13th, 2009

ice-cubes-nausea-lgIn learning to veil the fear of public speaking, we must address the common fear of freezing.  Here is a simple technique:

Memorize rote your opener and closer.  Why? Research shows that nerves spike in the first few moments of a presentation and in the last few moments.  When nerves spike you are more likely to freeze; so by memorizing, word-for-word, your power opener and power close, you will have more confidence when you need it most.

Clearly if you are using Power Point as a crutch, all you need to do is look up at the slide, but for the more effective presenters who chose not to read from their visuals, keep the following in mind:

1) Freezing to you is simply pausing to them.  Four seconds feels like an eternity for you, but it seems like a respectable pause to the audience.  It feels weak to you, but they interpret it as confidence.  It’s okay to “freeze” to allow your brain to catch up; then move on.  Avoid “Ums and ahs” and any filler. It is counterintuitive that filler makes YOU feel more comfortable, but it makes your audience think you are insecure.

2) Keep in mind that, in most cases, the audience does not know the layout of your presentation; so if you freeze on a point, just move to the next. You can address the missed point later in the presentation without anyone noticing.

3) If you’re using notes, avoid writing in sentence form or, even worse, paragraph form.  For a nervous speaker this can be deadly.  Once you lose your place, your eyes start to race through the text to find where you left off, and the panic snowballs as the seconds tick away.  Bullets in large font ensure that in just a glance you can get right back on track.

Freezing is simply a mind game with one player – you.  By employing the tips above you will be more confident that you will not freeze, which means that you’ll be less likely to freeze in the first place.

There you have it, yet another tip to manage your fear of public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Dry Throat

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

dreamstime_11462314[1]Veiling your fear of public speaking is quite simple, once you know the quick-fix tricks.  We’ve already discussed how to stop the shaky hands and how to stop the shaky voice.  Now we’ll share a simple technique for handling the dry throat.  

Just do a search on the web, and you’ll find many people seeking a remedy for the dry throat when they become anxious.  Here it is:

1) Forget water because it quickly dissipates within a minute.  If, however, you do drink water before or during your presentation, make sure it is at room temperature because cold water constricts the throat making public speaking more difficult.

2) The best remedy: luke warm orange juice.  It will give your throat a silky coating that will LAST through your presentation.

3) If you’re caught off-guard and have nothing with you: Imagine eating Sour Patch Kids, which will get your saliva glands into action.

4) A teaspoon of honey will give you a lasting coating, and it may be more palatable for you than luke warm OJ.

The benefit to you of using one of these remedies is that you won’t have to swallow mid sentence when public speaking, which is a dead giveaway that your are nervous.  Now with one less thing to worry about, you can concentrate on your delivery.

Please share your comments on how to veil your fear of public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Shaky Voice

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Does your voice shake when you are speaking in public?  Just like the shaky hand, your fear of public speaking triggers the release of excessive adrenaline, which causes your voice to shake.

What big mistake do most speakers make when their voice gets shaky?  They lower the volume.  It is natural to want to lower your volume when you hear the shakiness in your voice, but it is counterproductive.  It makes the shakiness more obvious.

The solution is to raise your volume when your voice is shaky.  The extra adrenaline in your body causes your vocal cords to have tiny vibrations that make that shaky sound.  When you speak loudly, the bigger movements of the vocal cords will veil the smaller vibrations caused by nerves.  In essence, you drown out the shakiness in your voice.

While counterintuitive, it is this simple: turn up the volume to overcome the “shakes”.

More to come on veiling your fear of public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Shaky Hands

Friday, February 6th, 2009

10180735As promised, first we will delve into the outside-in approach for veiling your fear of public speaking. Later we will uncover long-term methods to deal with your fear of presenting.

When we feel the fear of public speaking from within, what telegraphs that fear to our audience? One of clearest “tells” of our discomfort is the shaky hand.

Fear not . . . this one is easy to veil.

The problem:  Your fear of public speaking releases excessive adrenaline, which would be great if you were about to engage in a fight. However, since you’re just standing there, the energy has no release, and the result is that your hands begin to shake.

The solution: If you rely on notes, never hold a single piece of paper or index card.  Leverage dictates that a small shake in your hand will look huge by the time it reaches the tip of your paper.  Everyone will see your shakes magnified by this leverage.  You will see it too, and you will become even more nervous. If you need notes, hold something heavy underneath them.  It’s that simple.  By holding a leather padfolio beneath your notes, the sheer weight will flatten the shakes.

If you are not using notes, start your presentation with your hands held behind your back. Research shows that the beginning of the presentation is the most nerve-wracking.  Also, if it is not a formal presentation, you can then move to one hand in the pocket, and it is okay to hold a pen in the other hand as long as you do not fidget with it.

There you have the first tip towards veiling your fear of public speaking.  From this point forward, you will not telegraph your fear of presenting through your hands.

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