Overcoming the #2 Fear of All Human Beings

Note: Last week I described how public speaking can often turn the most courageous person into something just shy of a quivering mouse. At the same time, I don't think there are any natural-born great public presenters. All great public speakers started out as the worst public speakers. So what is their secret to overcoming this universal fear and becoming the type of presenter we all want to hear? Enjoy! As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/.

Focus on Your Role in the Presentation
Fear is a strong human emotion and once you succumb to it, it can consume you to the point of exclusion of all reason and rationality. Here are some great tips I have gathered from great presenters that have helped me to stay away from the darkness of fear:

  1. Keep in mind that your presentation is not about you - it is for your audience. Make sure your presentation is tailored to focus on their needs and wants; not yours. Look at it this way, "You need the audience more than the audience needs you.”  This especially true if you are trying to dislodge established beliefs when you put out an idea that they have to adopt that is contrary to what they presently believe.
  2. This was a big epiphany for me; the audience wants you to succeed! I had always thought they were waiting for me to crash and burn. Not so. Meet your audience halfway with humility and you will be rewarded.
  3. A very effective public speaking technique is to talk through the medium of a story - this will help sugarcoat your point(s) and help to move your audience toward your POV. Here is a big revelation - preliterate generations told stories to pass down history to successive generations and they remained largely intact.

This is a very important point - the best way to look like the people you have always admired on a stage or at a podium is to do what they do - rehearse and get feedback on your rehearsal.

  1. Use another person, use a video camera, use a stopwatch, or use all three.
  2. Make notes, but not a rigid script. Use 3 x 5 cards and just one idea per note card - short phrases and big print so you can see them quickly when you glance at them.
  3. This will feel awkward (at first) but, it works! Use gestures and move your body - it will keep your audience's attention. The bigger the audience, the bigger the gestures need to be. Walk forward and walk back; walk around the area where you are speaking from. If you feel awkward while rehearsing, close your eyes and get used to it. Movement will prevent the "marionette with its feet stuck in cement" look that we have all seen and also made us all cringe.
  4. DON'T use PowerPoint. Before this insipid business tool, people were forced to craft their words, use history, and quote others to make their points and give meaning to their talk. If you must use it, keep it short, no more than 10 slides and, above all, DON'T read them. If anything, use pictures or photos - 75% of adults are visual learners and the old saying; "One picture is worth a thousand words" is true.

A Great Tip to Keep You Calm
I have heard, as we have all heard, the old axiom about imagining the audience in their underwear. That is just too hard to conceive; why would all of these people be present at a public gathering in their underwear? I heard another one that makes more sense to me; it’s from a guy named Nick Morgan. He said, “What you need to do right before you walk on stage is think of someone that you love dearly.” That image will make the chemistry in your whole body change. Your shoulders will relax and that feeling of affection will make your body calm itself down.

Now, that’s a really great way to stop stage fright.

Next week: Creating a powerful presence as a leader.