If you have to give a presentation, does your mouth dry up and your heart start racing? Fear of public speaking - or glossophobia - is estimated to affect as many as 75% of people, making it one of the most common phobias.
If you're glossophobic you may try your best to avoid any situation where you have to speak in front of others. You may even break into a cold sweat at the mere thought of having to give a formal presentation, especially one to your managers or co-workers.
Unless you're an experienced presenter you may worry that you're not very good at public speaking or that your presentations aren't interesting, both of which can make you feel anxious about your performance. The good news is there are lots of things you can do to become a more effective - as well as more confident - public speaker, whether you're addressing a handful of people or a crowd of thousands. Here are our top presentation tips:
1. Set your goals
Ask yourself what you want to achieve with your presentation and how it's going to benefit your audience. Do you want to use it to share information with others? Is it meant to update your audience or inform them about some important news or decisions? Try to make sure you know what your objectives are, and make sure your presentation achieves them clearly.
2. Show some passion
Your audience is more likely to be engaged with what you're saying if you can speak about it with passion and conviction. If you truly care about your presentation's subject matter, your enthusiasm will shine through. Not only that, but speaking with passion can help to overcome nervousness because you'll be so absorbed in what you're saying, you won't have time to worry about how you're being received.
3. Use personal stories
Good public speakers know how important storytelling is for a successful presentation. But talking about yourself, such as including personal anecdotes to illustrate the points you're trying to make, can be even more powerful. And as most people feel comfortable talking about themselves, it could help you relax more too.
4. Add some humour
Humour can endear you to an audience because it shows you don't take yourself too seriously. If you can make your audience laugh a few times they may also be more receptive to what you're saying, which can help put you at ease. But avoid telling obvious jokes, as they can seem forced. Instead try to weave in a few humorous observations about your job or the subject you're talking about.
5. Include take-home points
Aim to make sure your audience doesn't leave your presentation wondering what it was all about. Your take-home points are the ideas and messages you want your audience to go away with, the things you hope will make a lasting impression on them. Summarise your take-home points at the end of your presentation when you're wrapping things up.
6. Ask questions
Try not to make your presentation one-sided. Involve your audience by asking them questions and encouraging them to participate. But make sure your questions can be answered - the last thing you want is for a question to be met with a wall of silence. Similarly, if someone asks a question while you're speaking, jump in straight away - don't wait until the end of your presentation to answer it.
7. Be prepared
Even the most confident and seasoned presenter can be thrown by unforeseen problems, especially when technology is involved. If you're using audio-visual aids, try to have a plan B in case your laptop crashes or your wi-fi connection vanishes. If you're well prepared, tech problems will be one less thing to worry about.
8. Practise - then practise again
If you have time, practise your presentation as often as possible. Rehearse to the point that you're so familiar with your subject matter, you could deliver your presentation with ease - like having a conversation with a friend. Also try to do at least one practise run in front of a friend or family member.
9. Visualise your success
As well as practising it's a good idea to visualise giving a great presentation as it can help boost your confidence. Try to do this as many times as you can, and especially immediately before you give your presentation. If you're still feeling nervous, try doing some deep breathing to bring down your heart rate.
10. Don't talk on an empty stomach
Always try to eat something before speaking in public. It may be the last thing you feel like doing if you're nervous, but having a light snack before giving a presentation can help make you more mentally alert. And if the thought of your presentation is really stressing you out, try having a burst of physical activity. Exercise helps your body use up stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, so have a brisk walk or hit the gym beforehand - it will make you feel much calmer.
How CABA can help
We can't directly help you overcome your fear of public speaking or make you a great presenter. But we do offer free courses that may be useful while boosting your career development in general.
Our Boost your resilience course is ideal if you want to discover strategies to perform better under pressure. Or why not join us on our next Develop your personal brand course, where you can learn to be more effective and confident? Both of these courses are also available online, which means you can complete them at your own pace.