A Gallup poll confirmed that the greatest fear of 40 percent of Americans is public speaking. It comes as no surprise that many of the people who consult me for help in making presentations express such concerns.
“No other advice you give me will matter until I can overcome my fear,” said one client. “Once it sets in, I can’t think about anything else.”
If you’ve had only negative experiences related to public speaking, you may doubt I can turn things around for you in this area. But the Rule the Room method has done it for others, and I know it can do the same for you.
When I speak to anyone about giving presentations, and specifically about fears and nervousness, there is one thing I tell them that immediately offers them some comfort: It’s okay to be nervous.
You just can’t show it. Simply learning how to appear calm will help you to become calm.
The place to start is understanding where your fear comes from. What are its components? For example, if you say, “I’m afraid of sharks,” it may not be the animal itself that’s your problem but the whole scenario you conjure up when thinking of a shark attack: the fear of being taken by surprise, of seeing the menacing look in the attacker’s eyes, of knowing how powerless you’d be to defend yourself, of being maimed or killed.
After speaking to many people about their presentation fears, I have discovered they all come from three underlying sources.
I like to use the example of a duck. When it’s swimming, underneath the water it’s paddling like the dickens, but the people on the banks or shore don’t see all that effort. They just see the duck gliding smoothly and confidently across the water. You want to create the same illusion. You don’t want your paddling and nervous efforts to be obvious. Be aware if you display any of the habits that betray your anxious state.
Now it’s your turn. Make a recording of yourself doing a presentation. Watch it and identify any nervous habits.
Eliminate your nervous habits and stay still as a default position.
Practice your speech three times in real time, making sure to use the default stance and keep your hands still.
Rerecord yourself and see if you have made changes.
The number one reason people are nervous is they’re afraid of making a mistake. They’re concerned they’re going to forget something, omit an important point, get confused about the right order, or simply lose their place. The remedies are very straightforward: proper preparation and sufficient practice. Though this is advice you may have heard before, in this case, I will guide you step-by-step through the process.
Now it’s your turn. Prior to making another recording of yourself doing a presentation.
Prepare your blueprint if you haven’t already.
Practice your presentation three times in real time. Be sure to practice transitioning between topics and use of your PowerPoint clicker.
Immediately before a presentation, practice away your last-minute jitters. Remember, practice at least the first five minutes three times; double that if you are very nervous.
Rerecord yourself and see if you have made changes.
You are more likely to be nervous about embarrassing yourself if you are thinking about your weaknesses rather than your strengths.
Marcus Buckingham, a British American social theorist, suggests you make a habit of concentrating on your strong points rather than on the areas where you feel deficient. I have observed that everyone has several subsidiary strengths, a couple of major strengths, and one thing at which they are really amazing—something I call your crux. This is the strength you should focus on.
Now it’s your turn. Start by looking over the possible crux areas above. They represent fifteen other skills that help guarantee you will give a great presentation.
Identify two or three areas in which you are strongest and check the boxes next to them in the first column.
In addition, if you can, solicit an opinion from someone who has observed you do a presentation or agrees to do an observation for just this purpose.
Then go back over the list and put a check in the second column next to the one thing you enjoy doing the very most.
Identify your presentation personality by taking the quiz at www.ruletheroompublicspeaking.com
People often get nervous because they are unsure they will be able to get the audience to respond to them positively and that this will reduce their ability to convey their message. The way to resolve this problem is to remember the presentation is not about you; it’s about them.
Sharon, a client, told me she liked doing presentations because she liked making people successful. So I gave her an assignment for the welcoming period that might be helpful to you as well.
Find out what your audience has come for during the welcome
I told her to speak with people during the welcome period and ask some version of this question: “What’s the number one piece of advice you could get from this presentation that would make it worth your while?” Then I told her to write down the person’s name and goal (and, in a small presentation, even make a note of where the person sat) and tell the individual at approximately what point in your presentation the need would be met. Then I told her to say, at the appropriate moment, something like, “I was talking with someone before this presentation who mentioned he wanted to increase his sales. Well, this will do that . . .”
Jason Teteak knows what it takes to Rule the Room. The master trainer and speaking presentation teacher has taught more than 50,000 people how to flawlessly command attention.
He’s won praise and a wide following for his original methods, his engaging style, and his knack for transferring communications skills via practical, simple, universal, and immediately actionable techniques.
Jason first made a reputation in the medical training industry, where he was known as “the presentation coach and trainer who trains the trainers.” Teteak’s attention to detail and precision in communicating definitive information was honed in serving this lifesaving industry.
In response to many requests, he began to offer personalized services and quickly developed a following as a private coach and a consultant whose clientele includes elite institutions, universities, and top corporate executives.
His new book, Rule the Room, was recently published in the summer of 2013. He has developed more than fifty presentation and communication training programs ranging in length from one hour to three days that serve as the basis for this unique, practical, and comprehensive course.