Public Speaking: Overcoming Your Fears and Improving Your Presentation
You are attracting an audience for your written work; now you are asked to speak. This can bring up insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. Here are some easy and tested ways to improve your presentations for meetings, groups or panel discussions.
- Being Nervous is Normal
- Teachers Publicly Speak Every Day
- Speaking and Hearing: Different Strokes for Different Folks
- The Five Senses Relate to All Learning Styles
- How to Improve Your Presentation - Engage the Listeners
- Now My Audience is Listening
- Lecture from the Heart – Your Audience Will Hear Your Passion
- How Will You and Your Information Be Remembered
- I Can Give a Speech
Being Nervous is Normal
The first time I sat on a discussion panel of “experts”, I seriously questioned why I was chosen to participate with this group. One of the other participants, a psychiatrist and friend of mine knew I was feeling anxious and inadequate.
He leaned over and whispered to me before we entered the auditorium, “We all had to go to school for our MD, you have had yours since birth.” This is a reference to my initials, not my credentials.
I smiled, took a deep breath, and realized that my knowledge was just as authentic, genuine and legitimate as any other participant. I spoke when I thought my contribution would add value and benefit to the discussion and when people began asking me questions, I knew that speaking about a subject I was familiar with could be as easy or as hard as I made it.
Since that experience, the largest group I have spoken to as a sole individual was 1500. For that experience, I told them that I was nervous about how many people who could walk out if I was boring. That garnered a laugh and then I went on to give my talk. No one walked out so my ego was intact.
Therefore, sometimes acknowledging that we are nervous is okay. Other times, remembering that we were selected for our unique perspective, authenticity, or viewpoint needs to be internalized so we feel less anxiety and we do not belabor the point to the audience.
Teachers Publicly Speak Every Day
Most people do not think about the fact that teachers publicly speak every day, or label what they do as public speaking, yet they do. They are required to be knowledgeable, engaging, entertaining, and keep to schedule. We could learn much from simply having a conversation with our children’s teachers about how they prepare to talk in front of a sometimes-hostile crowd.
Granted, the students probably do not have the liberty of walking out on the discussion, but the dismissive attitude, sleeping through the lecture, or making sarcastic remarks during the question and answer period will certainly be something that the teacher has experienced.
Speaking and Hearing: Different Strokes for Different Folks
There are essentially three ways to convey information and the same three ways to assimilate the material. They are referred to as learning styles.
Visual learning is a teaching and learning style in which ideas, concepts, data and other information are associated with images and techniques. This type of learner gathers information effectively through:
• Charts, Bold Colors, and Outlines
Engage them with words like:
• See and Look at
Auditory learning is a learning style in which a person learns through listening. An auditory learner depends on hearing and speaking as a main way of learning. Auditory learners must be able to hear what you are saying in order to understand and may have difficulty with solely written instructions. This type of learner gathers information effectively through:
• Videos or Clips of the Speaker Explaining the Material
Engage them with words like:
• Hear, Say, or Speaking of
Kinesthetic learning (also known as tactile learning) is a learning style in which learning takes place by carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration. Kinesthetic people are commonly referred to as "doers” and gather information effectively through:
• Analogies, Anecdotes, and Examples that have Universal Appeal
Engage them with words like:
• Touching upon, Emotionally Speaking, and Feeling
The Five Senses Relate to All Learning Styles
Content that incorporates all five senses engages your audience regardless of their learning style.
Giving descriptors that reference the five senses build a bond with your listeners while establishing empathy. This bond helps ensure that they understand your ideas and internalize the message. This is especially important if you need their help to move your agenda forward.
Does your lecture hit upon any or all of the following senses?
For instance, you are giving a lecture on Baking Bread. It is complete, but uninteresting, especially to the auditory and kinesthetic listeners, even if you have a visual clue such as an image of a loaf of bread.
How to Improve Your Presentation - Engage the Listeners
When I was preparing my notes for this presentation, I realized how much I wanted to bake bread myelf and actually had time to do this. I am always pleased when I have this kind of time to feed my family something nourishing.
It also gives me the time to reflect on childhood memories of baking with my grandmother.
My Grandmother Had Rituals for Gathering
My grandmother made a game of seek-and-find for our ingredients, asking me where I thought the flour would be. Then she would lovingly measure the flour, using our "special knife" to wipe off the dry ingredient and then add sugar to the cup, getting yet another special knife to be accurate in our measurements.
Years later I asked her why so many details, and she said that each of her grandchildren knew how to bake a loaf of bread, but that each child had their own special knives for this and so it made it a unique experience for each child.
Some days my grandchildren help with this, and each has selected their special knives. I just have to remember which is theirs. That day, I was by myself, but I still gathered all of the ingredients with care:
I am always amazed, that the off-putting smell of yeast as it begins to bubble and froth can create something so satisfying; how transformed yeast is one of the most delicious smells on earth when it is baking in a low temperature oven.
Now My Audience is Listening
My audience is listening because I am gathering, reflecting, doing, smelling, with my senses stimulated, which in turn might inspire a listener to bake bread.
Anytime we are lecturing, one of our objectives is to get our audience educated or motivated to follow through with something we are lecturing about; therefore if you present your information using various teaching styles and cover the five senses, more of your audience will leave your lecture with a clear understanding of what you were talking about, but more importantly, may be excited to put your lecture into practice.
Lecture from the Heart – Your Audience Will Hear Your Passion
Lecturing about subjects that you are impassioned about helps engage your listeners. Sincere and authentic enthusiasm and delight in your subject is palpable and obvious to your listeners.
Even when you are lukewarm about a subject, try to find at least one element to focus on that you genuinely are keen about and either, begin or end your lecture on this note.
How Will You and Your Information Be Remembered
Primacy and recency describe terms used in psychology to explain the effect of order of presentation on memory. The primacy effect results in information presented earlier more easily remembered than information presented later on. The recency effect results in better recall of the most recent information presented. Together, these two effects result in the earliest and latest information in a given presentation recalled best, with information in the middle of your presentation least remembered.
I Can Give a Speech
The next time someone asks you to give a speech, remember to:
• Accept the compliment, they chose you
• Have your facts in order
• Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject
• Include all five senses
• Incorporate examples for all learning styles
• Enjoy yourself