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LaNella Hooper-Williams

Personal Branding Tips and Tools for An Authentically Empowered Career

5 Tips to Help You Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

October 31, 2019

One of the biggest fears in life is public speaking.  So how can we reduce the nervousness, sweaty palms, racing heart and general anxiety that many of us feel when we are asked to present?

In working with my clients, here are five areas that we focus on to help get them more comfortable and get beyond the FEAR of public speaking!

1. PLANNING AND ORGANIZING

An effective presentation consists of a combination of planning, organizing and delivery.  Well-organized content helps the presenter command attention and interest. Make sure your content is accurate, factual and well organized.  A strong opening is essential and gets their attention and interest.  It also inspires the audience’s confidence early on.

2. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

Knowing your content is essential to your presentation.  Don’t try to wing it.  There’s no such thing as over practicing.  The more you practice, the better you can internalize the content and free yourself to live in the moment.

3. CONTROL

It’s important for a speaker to maintain control of the presentation at all times. While there are many variables we can’t control (the size of a group, frame of mind, disasters, background of audience, or their emotions), there are many things that we can control. For instance, timing, the information presented, and audio/visuals are all elements that you can control.

4. COMFORT

Quickly getting comfortable with your presentation is important. Various kinds of movement send different signals. Consider the following movements as you present:
Moving forward—immediately draws attention and increases tension
Moving backward—provides relief and gives up control
Sitting Down—can denote informality and can be more conducive to a discussion
Standing Up—more formal, commanding and better in control  I also recommend keeping your hand gestures in front of the plane of body. You should also keep hands above the waist and bend your elbows. Finally, try to use hands in combination with verbs. Remember, signs of discomfort include clenched fists, continuously pointing, putting hands in pockets and folding your arms.

5. CONTACT

Maintaining eye contact during your presentation is important in public speaking and is the one thing you can do to enhance your impact as a speaker. Connect with your audience by looking people in the eye, one at a time. Sustained, focused eye contact makes you feel more confident and act more assertively. It may feel weird at first, but when you practice, it becomes a habit that gives you power. In addition, your listeners feel invited to engage with you. When you fail to make eye contact with your listeners, you look less authoritative, less believable, and less confident. Finally, when you look someone in the eye for three to five seconds, you will naturally slow down your speech, which will make you sound more knowledgeable and authoritative.

Audio/visual aids can enhance presentations by adding interest, clarity and balancing timing. That said, if you are using PowerPoint, limit the number of slides and the content on each slide. And, don’t talk to the slides.

Most importantly, start with small steps, and you will see a positive difference in your ability to take control, build comfort and make eye contact as a presenter.

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