Glossophobia, or public speaking anxiety, is consistently ranked as one of the top fears among the population. Many people experience some degree of anxiety or fear of public speaking and rate it as more fear-inducing than spiders, snakes and needles.
As business leaders, it is critical to be able to stand up, present ideas clearly and confidently, and effectively communicate the credibility of the message. Investing time to improve communication skills is vital and worthwhile, as it can significantly impact both business and professional growth.
Following are some tips and techniques to allay your fear and improve the quality of your presentation as you present your business—and yourself—to your audience.
The tone and energy you begin with will establish your audience engagement and excitement throughout your presentation. Open with an energetic welcome, giving your audience the sense that your message is important and exciting, and you are thrilled to share it with them.
Confidence is a clear sign to your audience that you are knowledgeable and that they should hear and consider what you have to say. Some tips to demonstrate confidence include:
- Maintain eye contact: Canvas the room and chose a person to establish eye contact with. Maintain eye contact until a natural pause in your conversation, then switch to another person. Darting eyes communicate a lack of confidence, regardless of your actual confidence level.
- Use facial expressions: Facial expressions that are welcoming and warm—and communicate excitement about what your sharing—engage your audience. If your facial expression is saying, “I’m uncomfortable” or “I hope they don’t ask me a question” your audience will be looking at the clock wondering, “When will this be over?”
- Remove filler words: Avoid using filler words such as, “um”, “like” and others. They are often simply placeholders inserted while you think about what to say next. Instead, pause and think quietly about your next idea. This will keep your audience focused on you, wondering what you’re going to say, instead of counting how many times you say, “um.”
Tell a story
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Know your story well and take your listeners on a journey. While you will spend the majority of your time on the main points of your presentation, you must lead your audience logically from point to point, so they can enjoy and appreciate the progression.
Be sure to provide a mental bridge that transitions your audience from the beginning of your story to the middle, then from the middle to the end. Mental bridges should be used any time you connect one thought to another.
Draw your audience in by asking questions. If you do not receive many responses to a question posed to the entire group, approach one of the participants and ask, “What do you think, John? I’m interested in how you would approach this.”
Once one person responds, others will often engage. If you are asked a question, repeat if for the group, and rephrase it to be sure you fully understand what is being asked. When responding to a question from the audience, be sure to talk to your group, not at your group.
Make your conclusion count. The tone at the end of your presentation is the impression your audience will leave with. Be sure your close summarizes your journey together, that it motivates your listeners to delve further into the topic (hopefully with your assistance) and that it affirms that value was provided to them. Be sure to thank your audience for the time they invested to hear what you had to say and let them know that you sincerely appreciated it.
Mike and Tricia Battistella are the owners of Solutions3 LLC, an IT Management Company focusing on IT service management, cyber security management, network & systems management, critical notification management and technical training.
Mike and Tricia are also partners with EDC Communications LLC, where they are value-added resellers and instructors for their communication & leadership training offerings.