Most people fear public speaking. In fact, more people fear public speaking than fear death.
Work-related presentations are often the most nerve-wracking of all, but they don’t have to be. Good preparation helps you feel confident in your material, your abilities, and the response you’ll receive from an audience.
Grab the Audience’s Attention
Start your presentation with something memorable. Avoid phrases like, “Let’s get started.” These make you look uncomfortable and uncertain about what you want to say. Tell a related anecdote. Ask a series of questions that will make your audience think, “Yes, I feel this way,” “Yes, I need this,” or “Me, too.” Sometimes you can begin with a joke or a somewhat inflammatory statement like, “I hate committee meetings.” However, use these sparingly. Read the audience members. If you don’t think they’ll respond well, then they probably won’t.
Let the Audience Focus on You, Not the Screen
Since our society is so technologically driven, presenters are tempted to rely on PowerPoint, videos, and other computer-based aids. Resist this urge. If your audience does nothing but stare at a screen, they will get bored. Some of them might fall asleep. If you must use notes, consider paper handouts, perhaps with blanks to fill in or space for questions and comments. This helps the audience interact with you.
If you don’t know what you’re talking about, your audience will figure it out quickly. Do your homework, even if you’re comfortable with the topic. Let’s say you’ve given presentations on Myers-Briggs personality types for years. Refresh your memory, so you don’t accidentally call an Artisan an Idealist. If you use statistics in your presentations, always check to ensure those numbers haven’t changed. This builds the audience’s confidence and trust.
Keep It Short
Many audiences dread speakers, assuming they’ll drone on forever. Smash that expectation with a short speech. Beforehand, choose two to four points you want to hit and make sure you cover them within a reasonable period. If you have a time limit, respect it. Going over your allotted time affects everyone’s schedule.