fifth in a seven-part series of articles on presentation
skills designed for persons who don't make or supplement their living
from professional speaking.
5 of 7: The Speakerů
1 | Part
2 | Part
3 | Part
4 | Part
5 | Part
6 | Part
this article, we'll talk about just one topic of great concern to almost
all "unprofessional" speakers: Overcoming the fear of public speaking.
As we'll see, we could easily refer to this as "overcoming the fear
of failure," since that is often where the fear of public speaking is
keep two things in mind. Even "professional" speakers get nervous. In
fact, one very well known speaker that I've corresponded with confides
that he comes close to being physically sick prior to almost every presentation
he makes; this despite the fact that he is an outstanding, even legendary,
speaker. Also, remember that your audience probably is not expecting
a lot, certainly much less than you expect from yourself. So, read on
to learn about putting your presentation into perspective.
addition to the fear of failure, I believe that there are FOUR reasons
why most speakers get nervous before a presentation. These reasons are
directly related to the four key components of a presentation that this
series of articles discusses:
- The Situation
- not being sure of the reason for your presentation or being in an
unfamiliar or awkward setting or situation.
- The Audience
- not being sure of the expectations of the audience or being with
a group of "strangers" or even a hostile crowd.
- The Speaker
- not being sure of yourself as a public speaker or having unrealistic
expectations relative to your experience level as a speaker.
- The Presentation
- not being sure of your material or not properly planning, preparing
and/or rehearsing your presentation.
I speak on a familiar topic to a group with which I'm acquainted, I'm
almost always at ease. However, if I'm doing a new program and don't
feel confident in my mastery of the subject matter, I feel anxious.
Likewise, when I speak to an unfamiliar group, I'm often nervous. Don't
believe anyone who tells you they never get nervous. As Mark Twain said,
"There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those
that are liars." However, once you've identified and understood
the source(s) of your anxiety, you can set out to control and ultimately
conquer your fears. In accomplishing that mission, here are SIX things
to keep in mind:
- Anxiety is better
than apathy. Fear means you care.
- Keep things
in perspective. Don't take yourself too seriously and don't overestimate
the importance or consequences of your presentation. Remember that
most audiences will be thrilled if you're just not awful! Ask yourself,
"What's the worst thing that could happen?" Don't worry about what
people will think, even if things don't go perfectly. Follow the advice
of speaker Steve Eggleston: "I stopped worrying about what people
would think about me when I realized how seldom people think about
anyone but themselves."
- Believe in your
message. Show your conviction and deliver the presentation you would
want to hear.
- Practice the
3 P's...Preparation, Preparation, and Preparation. Study the final
phase of the process involving planning, preparing and delivering
a presentation. Despite what you may have been told, it's virtually
impossible to over prepare for a speech. And, take every opportunity
you can to speak before a group. The more you do it, the better you'll
- Never apologize.
Don't make a production out of the fact that you're nervous...believe
me, you're much more aware of your anxiety than the audience. In most
instances, the audience won't even suspect you're nervous unless you
- Never forget
that the audience is almost always on your side. Have you ever gone
to a presentation hoping that the speaker would be terrible? Of course
not. Your audience isn't there to see you fail either. About 10% of
the audience will like you no matter what happens...we'll forget,
for the moment, the 10% that will not like you no matter how good
you are. Identify the former in your audience (hint: they're the ones
awake and smiling) and focus on them as your confidence and comfort
1999-2000 by William C. Wilson, Jr.
All Rights Reserved.