It is widely known that the thought of speaking in public fills most people with dread.
Some experts say as many as three out of four of the population feels that way. Maybe you do, too.
Most of us will experience some nervousness, a dry mouth or an increased heart rate when facing, or about to face, an audience. However, for some individuals, the fear of public speaking is so strong and persistent it becomes a phobia or anxiety disorder, called glossophobia.
This can cause headaches, nausea and difficulty in breathing. It’s much more than a touch of nerves.
The good news is that public speaking is a skill. It is something you can learn, get better at with practice, and even master at an advanced level if you wish.
Remember to use Story
Any presentation, whether for business or other purposes, tells a story. It has a beginning, middle and an end.
Planning what you want to say and giving it structure will help to focus on the message. It also encourages you to think about how you will set out, illustrate or demonstrate points to be made.
When you see the best speakers and presenters, they speak with confidence, flow. and variety of pace and tone. They are as impressive as an actor on a Shakespearian stage. They hold our attention like the best Netflix thriller.
Using story will help you to master the art of presentation.
Practice Makes Perfect
When you see top speakers, presenters or even stand-up comedians they make the art of presenting seem effortless.
That’s not because they are brilliant at ‘winging it’. It’s because they practise. They master their craft.
The presentation gets outlined, written and refined. It gets read over and over and over again. Like a lead singer in a band, the words become etched in their mind.
That is what allows them to walk on stage, enter a meeting room or stand in front of a camera and deliver an experience that engages the audience and creates an emotional response.
I’ll be sharing some tips on how to learn from the masters in a moment. But first, a reminder of how important visuals and slides can be to any presentation.
Let PowerPoint Be Your Guide
When planning a presentation, it’s a good idea to outline and structure your thoughts and ideas.
You’ll probably have your own process for this.
Two great ways to go are using sticky notes or mind mapping. Jot down points, messages, quotes, statistics and anything else you want to say. Then begin to rearrange it into a logical, story-based order.
Use these key points and data to structure and organise your PowerPoint slides. The slides are always there to support what you say, not the other way around. They can be used to help the audience to pick up the most important messages. They are also a resource to help you remember what you want to say at any point during the presentation.
PowerPoint displays the key points. The speaker delivers the detail.
If creating strong presentations in the Microsoft application is not your strong point, you can learn all the essentials through my range of online courses on the subject.
Ways to Learn from the Masters
The simple maxim is ‘Watch and Learn’.
Who are the great orators of history and today? Take a look at some of their speeches. On video, online or in print.
What topics and themes interest you? Check out some talks on those subjects on TED and other channels.
Who are your favourite actors or comedians? Go to the theatre or a stand-up gig and see how professionals master the audience and command the stage. Or check them out on YouTube.
Watch business presentations or webinars. Make an extra note of how these are structured and delivered. Can you see how they work on the audience? Are you able to gauge how people are interacting and responding?
With all the social media content out there, check out some Facebook Lives. Who is good on screen and delivering messages that resonate with their audience? Learning opportunities abound.
Got the transcript of a great speech? Copy it. Write it out by hand. As you’re writing, get a feel for the words and experience them. It helps you to understand where the power of the oration comes from.
What can you take from others and put into your talk or presentation?
Trainers Can Teach a Thing or Two
If you are a trainer or looking to create an online course for your business, take a leaf out of the book of a professional trainer.
If you look at the pages for any of my courses, for example, you will see they include a course curriculum – a summary of the lessons and topics covered. That’s a good way to see how a course should be structured. I should know what I’m doing because I’ve been delivering Microsoft 365 and Office training for more than 20 years.
What training courses have you been on or invested in? Which ones stood out? Why was that?
The more you explore, question and seek the answers, the more you will learn about presentations.
The more you learn and put into practice, the better you will get.