That’s the technical word for that wave of fear that overwhelms many of us when we’re faced with the prospect of giving a presentation. A common way of dealing with this phobia is to simply avoid all situations that involve public speaking, however, if you want a successful career (especially in the world of PR) this isn’t a particularly viable solution. Confronting those fears and acing the presentation is much more affective and it could soon become a standout skill to help you further your career.
That presentation that you’re losing sleep over isn’t simply going to go away, but we’re here to help you with our five Top Tips on how to ace it, leaving your audience thoroughly impressed.
Don’t Over-Prepare: When it’s all you’re thinking about, it’s very easy to spend too much time preparing for the presentation, learning a script word for word, off by heart. In fact, this is just a recipe for more panicking as, if you end up forgetting your well-rehearsed lines amid your nerves on the day, you may just freeze with no idea what to say next. Instead, simply prepare on the general topics of your presentation using only short bullet points to prompt you on the day. This way you won’t end up reeling off robotically memorised lines, but instead will be able to talk much more naturally on the subject, making the presentation more like a conversation between you and your audience. This leads very nicely onto our next of the Top Tips…
Be Human: Remember, at the end of the day, you are a human being, talking to other human beings: they are there to listen and learn from you, so be yourself and be personable – they’re less scary than you think! Maintaining eye contact throughout (with the audience, not the PowerPoint – more of that later…), addressing the whole room develops a connection, displays your passion and engages everyone, simply not allowing them to get distracted. If something goes wrong, don’t panic (PowerPoint can be far from powerful at times) – acknowledge it, make a (professional) joke out of it and move on. Engaging this way with the audience demonstrates confidence, even if you don’t feel that way, and suggests that you really know what you’re talking so that everyone is going to want to hang on your every word. They may even be encouraged to get involved with the presentation themselves.
Audience Participation: If the situation allows, relax the room as well as yourself. Bounce off of your audience, asking them questions about what they think – everyone loves talking about themselves so this shouldn’t be too hard and takes the onus off of you for a little bit! You’re much more likely to develop a connection if you encourage more of a conversational presentation – talking with them not at them and, again, showing your human side.
You’re presenting, not PowerPoint: Keep it simple – don’t let PowerPoint steal your limelight. You want your audience to listen to what you’ve got to say, not to be distracted by an overcomplicated and information heavy slide projected behind you. It can be tempting to use the slides as a prompt or even a script so you don’t forget what you’re talking about, however, overpopulated slides will end up distracting you as well as your audience. If you read information off of the slide you will lose that all important connection with the audience and, if they can simply read the information, then what’s the point of you being there? Present, don’t read.
Breathe: It sounds obvious, but in stressful situations as adrenaline pumps through the body, we often find ourselves short of breath. However, don’t rush into the presentation: before speaking, take time to relax and mentally prepare. Make yourself a cup of tea (it’s what keeps us going at CommsCo), read through your notes and take some deep breaths. Calm and regular breathing combined with hand gestures will help you set a natural pace as you speak. This will enable you to emphasise important points, making it easier to get your point across and leave a lasting impact on your audience.
Ultimately, practice makes perfect and the more often you present, the more natural it becomes. Avoidance will only make matters worse, instead jump at the opportunity to learn and soon you’ll gloss over your Glossophobia and become a natural and accomplished public speaker.