How to overcome your fear of public speaking How to overcome your fear of public speaking

How to overcome your fear of public speaking
27 Nov 2018

It is a well-known fact that public speaking is many people’s number one fear.

Some lucky individuals consider talking to a roomful of people the most natural thing in the world, but for others with so-called glossophobia, it is as terrifying as an encounter with a deadly spider or the dentist.

What is important to remember though is that, while you may currently have a pathological fear of presenting and find it a metaphorical ‘step into the darkness’, it does not have to be this way. Public speaking or presenting to a group is an important skill that can actually be learned.

As a payroll professional, you may find yourself required to give presentations to a range of different people, which include senior managers and your peers. The question is, how can you conquer your fear?

First of all, take a deep breath and ensure you follow the basic CASE formula – Clarity, Audience, Story and Ending – which is outlined below:

Clarity

Being clear about what you are saying is the key to all good communication. Know what you want to get out there and think about the best way to express it.

To this end, it can be useful to create a headline and/or strong title slide to point the discussion in the direction you want it to go. Being transparent in this way will help you gain your audience’s trust.

Speak more slowly than your normal conversational speed and also give your audience time for the information you are providing to settle. What you are saying is important and you have chosen to say it for a reason – so try to impart that to your audience.

Also ensure you are concise. People tend to switch off if speakers are long-winded and waffle-y, preferring them to get straight to the point.

Next, examine the slides in your PowerPoint presentation. Are they stuffed with so much information that they are difficult to read and comprehend? Paring them down and finding a way to impart your message succinctly will help to boost its impact.

You could even try sticking to the ‘10 slide rule’, while also bearing in mind things like fonts, colour and image, which can all help to reinforce your message. But also remember that your PowerPoint presentation is not the main event – it is simply a nice-to-have to help illustrate your message.

If you follow these suggestions, you will find your audience is more ready to pay attention to your factual meat. Ultimately what they are looking for is to get a feel for the key issues and how they will be affected by them. So bear in mind that the message is everything.

Audience

Always understand your audience and who they are. Ask yourself what cultural differences, both business and personal, could come into play? What is their aim in being there and how knowledgeable are they about the subject you are presenting? Their age and attitudes will form part of the mix too as Baby Boomers are likely to have different concerns and terms of reference to Millennials.

But it can also help to put yourself in your audience’s shoes while preparing. Ask yourself which aspects of your presentation would you find interesting and which bits appear irrelevant? Be quite tough about it and ensure you fix it, even if it is simply a matter of varying, trimming down or adding to your graphics.

Story

‘A cowboy doll feels deeply threatened and jealous when a spaceman supplants him as top toy in a little boy's room.’ You may recognise the theme from Pixar’s Toy Story, but the point is that it has been summed up in a simple sentence that sets out the direction of the entire film.

Next, think about the last time you were asked to describe a movie you have seen. You may have rambled, got caught up in the characters and forgotten about that all-important car chase. So contrast your approach with the simplicity of the example above.

Devising a one-line summary, or logline, is a useful tool to help you prepare your presentation. This logline will help you stick to your message and keep your presentation on point so you can move smoothly towards your end goal.

Also remember to tell your story because story-telling is an important element of any successful presentation. Stories work on many levels. They engage audiences and let them know where you are going, in a relevant business sense.

Screenwriting guru John Yorke talks about a good storyteller taking the audience “into the woods” and leading them out again towards a better understanding of the intended meaning. A good story is linked by causality – ‘because of’ rather than ‘and then’. It is a ‘once upon a time’ moment, linked by causality and leading to the ‘and finally’.

But if you prefer, you could also view it as a journey from A to B, with you taking the most direct route via the motorway rather than the B roads. After all, the scenic route could blur your message.

So begin with the story you want to tell – and even think about using your summary as your opening gambit. If you dive straight into your slides, the danger is you could not only lose your way, but you may also lose your audience to social media too.

Ending

After being careful to stick to your main subject and navigate your argument clearly from A to B, your final destination is to answer the question with which you opened your talk.

To become a good presenter, it is necessary to think like a professional athlete. Practise and have faith in your training and preparation. Think of where and when you will deliver your presentation and take care of any little things that could throw you.

Also let go of the need for perfection. There will always be hiccoughs - it was ever thus. But remember, you are not there to be interesting on a personal level – it is your message that is the interesting bit.

Next, visualise yourself delivering a successful presentation and, immediately before you do so, breathe deeply or even meditate.

Finally, focus. If you have prepared well and done your homework, you should be ready to give a meaningful presentation that leaves your audience satisfied and enlightened. So just go for it!

 Khalid Aziz

Khalid Aziz is lead communication skills coach and chief executive of Aziz Corporate. He has coached and advised senior executives for more than 30 years, specialising in communication and presentation skills. Khalid is also a visiting professor at Cass Business School, Southampton University and the University of Winchester.

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Is your attitude holding you back in your career?

 

It is a well-known fact that public speaking is many people’s number one fear.

Some lucky individuals consider talking to a roomful of people the most natural thing in the world, but for others with so-called glossophobia, it is as terrifying as an encounter with a deadly spider or the dentist.

What is important to remember though is that, while you may currently have a pathological fear of presenting and find it a metaphorical ‘step into the darkness’, it does not have to be this way. Public speaking or presenting to a group is an important skill that can actually be learned.

As a payroll professional, you may find yourself required to give presentations to a range of different people, which include senior managers and your peers. The question is, how can you conquer your fear?

First of all, take a deep breath and ensure you follow the basic CASE formula – Clarity, Audience, Story and Ending – which is outlined below:

Clarity

Being clear about what you are saying is the key to all good communication. Know what you want to get out there and think about the best way to express it.

To this end, it can be useful to create a headline and/or strong title slide to point the discussion in the direction you want it to go. Being transparent in this way will help you gain your audience’s trust.

Speak more slowly than your normal conversational speed and also give your audience time for the information you are providing to settle. What you are saying is important and you have chosen to say it for a reason – so try to impart that to your audience.

Also ensure you are concise. People tend to switch off if speakers are long-winded and waffle-y, preferring them to get straight to the point.

Next, examine the slides in your PowerPoint presentation. Are they stuffed with so much information that they are difficult to read and comprehend? Paring them down and finding a way to impart your message succinctly will help to boost its impact.

You could even try sticking to the ‘10 slide rule’, while also bearing in mind things like fonts, colour and image, which can all help to reinforce your message. But also remember that your PowerPoint presentation is not the main event – it is simply a nice-to-have to help illustrate your message.

If you follow these suggestions, you will find your audience is more ready to pay attention to your factual meat. Ultimately what they are looking for is to get a feel for the key issues and how they will be affected by them. So bear in mind that the message is everything.

Audience

Always understand your audience and who they are. Ask yourself what cultural differences, both business and personal, could come into play? What is their aim in being there and how knowledgeable are they about the subject you are presenting? Their age and attitudes will form part of the mix too as Baby Boomers are likely to have different concerns and terms of reference to Millennials.

But it can also help to put yourself in your audience’s shoes while preparing. Ask yourself which aspects of your presentation would you find interesting and which bits appear irrelevant? Be quite tough about it and ensure you fix it, even if it is simply a matter of varying, trimming down or adding to your graphics.

Story

‘A cowboy doll feels deeply threatened and jealous when a spaceman supplants him as top toy in a little boy's room.’ You may recognise the theme from Pixar’s Toy Story, but the point is that it has been summed up in a simple sentence that sets out the direction of the entire film.

Next, think about the last time you were asked to describe a movie you have seen. You may have rambled, got caught up in the characters and forgotten about that all-important car chase. So contrast your approach with the simplicity of the example above.

Devising a one-line summary, or logline, is a useful tool to help you prepare your presentation. This logline will help you stick to your message and keep your presentation on point so you can move smoothly towards your end goal.

Also remember to tell your story because story-telling is an important element of any successful presentation. Stories work on many levels. They engage audiences and let them know where you are going, in a relevant business sense.

Screenwriting guru John Yorke talks about a good storyteller taking the audience “into the woods” and leading them out again towards a better understanding of the intended meaning. A good story is linked by causality – ‘because of’ rather than ‘and then’. It is a ‘once upon a time’ moment, linked by causality and leading to the ‘and finally’.

But if you prefer, you could also view it as a journey from A to B, with you taking the most direct route via the motorway rather than the B roads. After all, the scenic route could blur your message.

So begin with the story you want to tell – and even think about using your summary as your opening gambit. If you dive straight into your slides, the danger is you could not only lose your way, but you may also lose your audience to social media too.

Ending

After being careful to stick to your main subject and navigate your argument clearly from A to B, your final destination is to answer the question with which you opened your talk.

To become a good presenter, it is necessary to think like a professional athlete. Practise and have faith in your training and preparation. Think of where and when you will deliver your presentation and take care of any little things that could throw you.

Also let go of the need for perfection. There will always be hiccoughs - it was ever thus. But remember, you are not there to be interesting on a personal level – it is your message that is the interesting bit.

Next, visualise yourself delivering a successful presentation and, immediately before you do so, breathe deeply or even meditate.

Finally, focus. If you have prepared well and done your homework, you should be ready to give a meaningful presentation that leaves your audience satisfied and enlightened. So just go for it!

 Khalid Aziz

Khalid Aziz is lead communication skills coach and chief executive of Aziz Corporate. He has coached and advised senior executives for more than 30 years, specialising in communication and presentation skills. Khalid is also a visiting professor at Cass Business School, Southampton University and the University of Winchester.

OTHER ARTICLES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

 Five tips for fostering an entrepreneurial spirit within your team

Book review: The psychology of fear in organisations

Is your attitude holding you back in your career?