Plenty of tips and ideas on how to do effective business presentations, create a good PowerPoint Presentation, and develop good presentation skills in your work. If you have to make a presentation, we hope the ideas and tips here help you prepare well.

Listening as an Effective Communication Skill

5 Insights into the Art of Literal Listening

The 30-Day Challenge

Have you ever been described as a great listener? Would this describe you? Are you the person that keeps saying  “Sorry, what did you say?”  I was prompted to think about listening in the past few month because I was working on some business projects which required deep levels of listening on my part to get results needed for a team and a client’s business.

I put myself up to the challenge of really noticing how well I was listening while also taking in how other people listen in a conversation, so I could learn from them.  In coaching, the most powerful tool we can use is listening, and listening in an active and fully present way. No matter where we are in our professional life, nothing gets achieved without listening.  Mis-communication is often created by under-developed listening skills. People make assumptions based on what they thought they heard. The next thing, you are sitting in a reality far removed from the actual facts. Here are some thoughts on what listening can do for you, if you take up the 30-day challenge.

1. Listening is an internal and external dynamic

We cannot be listening to the inside and the outside at the same time. There is a distinction between practicing self-listening and other-listening. When you are self-listening, you are consciously following every thought and word you speak, and ensuring that it fits with those you are addressing, the environment and context. You are noticing how congruent you are with what you are saying. So if somebody asks you, “What did you say?” you can repeat it, instead of realising that you can’t actually remember.  Being present to your own words and thoughts will keep your self-listening levels high. And it helps in negotiations to know exactly what you said throughout the discussions.

When you are other-listening, you are tracking for understanding of others, without comment, you are turning down the inner dialogue and literally hearing every word and idea being said. Distracted listening will show up where you need to repeatedly utter“Huh, What?” or a variation of this. You will look distracted, moving or fidgeting if you are thinking about what you are going to say next. This will be picked up as not being fully present to other person and will certainly affect the communication. This is a very common habit, particularly where there is a tempting smartphone near by to pick up and check. Listening deeply to the words, tone and gestures of others will give you a wealth of unspoken valuable insight into their way of working and help build a quality relationship with them. Don’t miss out on the cues to tell you how the conversation is going.

2. Literal listening creates clean language

Have you ever been in a conversation where somebody completely paraphrases what you just said? They don’t use the words you used and may even have turned what you said upside down.  How did you feel? I’ve seen one incident where it was definitely not what the person said at all. It started a whole argument because one person was just making up what they heard. Putting words in people’s mouths does very little to build relationships.

This is called inferred listening, where we put our own spin on what we hear, usually for our own benefit. Literally listening to every word will never get you into trouble.  It allows you to take what you heard and bring clear clean responses to your conversation. If you need to relate what they said, your literal listening will allow you to use their words in a clean way, rather than paraphrasing and inviting misunderstanding and, at worst, distance between people.

3. Listening is the only way to build interpersonal relationships

Whenever a person feels that you are listening and hearing them, you are actually including them. As far out from your own view as they may be, it is always a good practice to listen and then consider what they are saying. Listening to others is about receiving who they are, their contribution, ideas and points of view. Getting a reputation for poor listening will tend to alienate others and when you really need these people on your side, they may not be around. “They never listen anyway” is a good indication that relationships need building. I have heard it in many places I have worked in, and certainly in the parenting zone, it is a common theme.

4. Listening is great for concentration and recall

I noticed that the really great listeners are fully present in how they hold themselves. They are still, calm, nodding, and really seeking to understand. It comes back to one of the Steven Covey’s Seven Habits, Seek first to Understand. If you develop your skill of really listening, and recalling exactly through literal listening you will find people warm to you more readily. Over the years I have worked to develop skills in tracking what people said in earlier coaching conversations and so I can bring it into relevance where appropriate. It is an invaluable skill to have.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about learning styles in school children.  A child who has only one channel switched on will struggle more in the classroom. This can often translate into poor academic performance. Seeing, hearing and doing is how we learn best. Listening and hearing is how we understand. A great way to develop your recall from listening is to close your eyes, listen to a dialogue and see how much you can remember verbatim.

5. Listening slows down our responses

Even when you are in a heated discussion with somebody, it is always worthwhile listening to everything that is being said and doing your best to hear what the other party is saying. If you are lost in your own responses, you may be drawing your own opinions from the interaction. You will hear the stuff you don’t like and miss the real words that are being spoken. And when you slow down your listening, it gives you time to ask “When you say this, what exactly does that mean to you?” It invites deeper understanding and empathy. A wise strategy I recently learned from a friend was to “say nothing, until you know more.”

Listening is not just confined to the spoken word and daily conversations: consider how you “listen” to the messages in emails and social media posts. Are you listening with your inner ear and asking what the intention of the message was or are you assuming a meaning that is not there?  Listening as a communication skill can really take your relationships to another level.

Give yourself a 30-day challenge to see you well you listen. Can you do literal listening, as you stay fully present with the other person, instead of reaching for a distraction, thinking about your next utterance or making up your own interpretations of what somebody means.  In the power of listening lies your communication and relationship success. See where you are in 30 days!

Public Speaking Tip #1: Create a presentation in 10 minutes

Public Speaking Tip #1

The 10 Minute Presentation Prep

In our public speaking courses, our aim is to finally get people to enjoy public speaking. But also know how to put a presentation together in 10 minutes if you had to. So if you are asked at work to give a presentation in the afternoon on your sales or an update on what’s happening in your department. What would you do? Would it set you off or would you be cool, calm and collected enough to able to put one together?

Here are some simple ways to create a presentation in 10 minutes. It’s all about making public speaking easy for you. Keep it simple and keep it short. Your audience will love you for it

The 5 Key Points Rule of Presentations

Pick 5 points you are going to make in your presentation. Point 1 is the opening point, where you set the scene for what you are going to speak about. It should be an introduction and it definitely should contain the Why or the presentation. At the end of the introduction, they audience should know why they are there, why the need to know what you are going to tell them and why it’s important. You are going to tell them what your going to tell them.

Points 2-4 are the middle of your presentation, where you will develop your introduction and expand out what you are saying. It should be a logical progression. At the end of these the speaker should know more about your introduction and why you are telling this. In points 2-4, you should probably have covered what they need to know, how it works or applies to them and what they can do with the information. IN points 2-4 you are going to tell them.

Point number 5 is the summary for your presentation. Here you are going to wrap up in re-inforce the previous 4 points. In your summary, you should leave your audience in no doubt about the value of what you had to say.  In point number 5, you are going to tell them what you told them and get them to do something about what you told them, whether it’s to ask questions or talk to you further off-line about it

The Rule of 3 for Speaking in Public

With people’s attention spans getting tested everyday with an information overload, anybody will love a public speaker who keeps it simple, gets to the point and presents no more 3 key ideas in each piece of their presentation. I suggest you aim for 2 and 3 at a stretch. So if you were doing a sales presentation, you might share the 2-3 sales strategies that are making the difference to sales results and give examples.

Tell the story that proves your point

Story-telling is a great tool to use when speaking in public, In our public speaking courses, we always get the participants to illustrate their point with a story rather than facts. Why? People love stories and respond to stories. So if you have a concrete example of a success story, it takes people right into it. People remember stories, they do not remember facts and figures. A great example I have is when I was working with somebody who was explaining a complex accounting idea.  So I suggested he turn it into a metaphor or a story. When he explained it using the metaphor of producing smart phone, it was suddenly easy to remember and easy to understand. It is a public speaking skill that I would highly recommend you develop. It will make life a lot easier for you.

Ask the audience questions

Putting questions to your audience is a great way to connect to the audience and involve them in your presentation. Plan on perhaps having 1-3 questions that you can ask, if they are appropriate, for example, how many people here have heard of x? Use

Questions to check how well the audience is following, for example, can anyone here give me a an example where they think they could use this? Questions are great at the end of a presentation to get the audience to take action of what you have said, for example, have I provided enough insight or would you like an emailed report on what I have shared? This is a great way of testing your audiences interest in your presentation and the follow-up

Give your audience a Call-to-Action

In our sales training courses, we often discuss the importance of a call-to-action. It is important that you get your prospect to follow-up and do something with what you have told the. So at the end of your presentation, I suggest the audience do something with what you have told them, whether it is to contact you, ask you questions, have a follow-up meeting or identify further discussion opportunities. When they have a call-to-action, you are more likely to get feedback on the value they got from hearing you speak.

So in summary, here is the quick and easy way to design your presentation in 10 minutes. Step 1, know the 5 ideas or concepts you want to share. Step 2. Pick 2-3 points you are going to make in each section of your presentation. Step 3: Identify 1-2 stories and examples that illustrate your points and place them where you want in talk. Step 4: Prepare questions that engage the audience. Step 5. Have an idea of what you want the audience to do with what you have told them.

These are some ideas for making your public speaking easier. If you have structure in your presentations, it can only add to your presentation skills and help you make more impact.

 

Terrified of Public Speaking and here’s why

The top 6 reasons people are nervous speaking in public.

What’s really going on and what to do about it.

“Will you do a presentation? Would you say a few words? Would you mind speaking at our next meeting?”

Does this fill you with delight or fear when you get a polite request from your boss, your best mate or your club president to present in front of a group?

When we think of presenting, the images that often come to mind are of the charismatic, confident, well-practiced politicians, celebrity speakers or actors from West Wing who just seem to have a knack for speaking in public. We, on the other hand, see ourselves as a far cry from the powerful public speaker, more like a nervous wreck, who would rather eat worms on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here than face our public speaking anxiety.

In the years of coaching and training people on how to conquer the fear of public speaking, I have heard many of the same reasons why people cannot do a presentation. At the heart of it are layers of judgement about self and others. Judgement is the thief of confidence when it comes to public speaking. I know first hand, having been there in the early days of my working life, until I realized that public speaking skills, like all skills, have structure and do need to be practiced.

I have listed the top 6 reasons why people are terrified of public speaking, what’s really going on and what you can do about it.

Reason 1: If only I could get past the first 30 seconds. Once I’m up there I am fine.

What’s really going on: You are crowding your mind with information overload, running negative judgments and fear-based thinking on yourself, rather than sorting your mind for the single sentence you need to get you started. This is triggering a fight-or-flight response. And guess what? All you want to do is run.

What to do: Ask yourself, “what is the best way to get started; can I tell a story or ask the audience a question?” Another great way to launch those first 30 seconds is share what you plan to talk about with others in casual conversations before you get up to speak. Tell yourself, “it’s an information-sharing session, rather than a performance I am doing. I am not looking for an Oscar here.”

Reason 2: I just don’t like standing up in front of people with all those eyes on me. But I’m okay sitting down.

What’s really going on: You are assuming that because people are looking at you, they could be judging you. You may not like being center of attention and never have. Standing up makes you feel more exposed than sitting down.

What to do: This one is simple! Let people look at you! Allow yourself to be vulnerable and trust that people want the best for you. If the setting is less formal, say you are going to sit down to do the presentation and when you feel comfortable, casually stand up to complete the presentation. Volunteer often to give a presentation in more causal settings.

Reason 3: I find it hard to present to people I don’t know. I find it hard to present to people I do know.

What’s really going on; This is about rules you run with your audience, and how you selectively decide one audience is nicer or easier than another. Once again, there are underlying judgments operating here about what you think people think of you and most of them time it is “made-up” in your head and has no bearing on reality.

What to do: See your audience as just people, who need the information you have. See the humanness of everybody in front of you. Most people would empathize and support you.

Reason 4: I don’t mind a few people. It’s the bigger groups I can’t handle.

What’s really going on: Somehow your thinking is rooted in the idea smaller groups are easier, nicer, kinder, less intimidating, which is also a mental invention. The size of the group is not as relevant of your perception of what bigger and smaller groups do. Most people are only there for the message and will only get distracted by your nerves, but will be engaged if you focus on what you want to tell them.

What to do: Remind yourself, these are just people with the same concerns and challenges in their daily lives. They do want to hear what you have to say. They will more likely remember the message over the speaker. And there are relaxed when you relax. Do them this favor.

Reason 5: People are going to think the worst of me and I am going to get it wrong.

What’s really going on: You are projecting onto your audience, based on your own self-criticism and the “wrongness” of you, which is about high standards and perfectionism. Who doesn’t get things wrong? The difference lies in being self-forgiving and doing better preparation next time and allowing people to see your vulnerability.

What to do: Keep it simple, which includes your ideas and your language. Prepare and practice. Always present on what you know and feel comfortable with. Always prepare your own material so you know what you are talking about. Get comfortable with not knowing everything and allowing people to see that you are open to learning more.

Reason 6: I will never remember all of this and what if I forget what I am going to say?

What’s really going on: You are relying too much on your detail-oriented memory. Your presentation flow is too reliant on tracking every word written in your script. You may be hiding behind your words rather than expressing your expertise. Experts on a subject can always speak off the cuff and rarely use this way of communicating their knowledge.

What to do: Create and share key points rather than learn a speech-by-heart. Some people are good at memorizing a speech, but most people find it more challenging. It’s easier to find your place if you have an outline and key points, rather than a verbatim speech. We often lose our train of thought in conversation, just acknowledge it by saying, “let me just refer to my notes.” The number one thing is to just keep going.

As a final point, watching a nervous speaker is uncomfortable for your audience. Take your mind off who you are, what you do, and how you are preforming. Let your audience enjoy your presentation by preparing, relaxing and letting people make up their own minds about you.

Read 5 Ways You can Improve your Presentation Skills and How People Create a Phobia of Public Speaking

 

Fear of Public Speaking – How to overcome it

Fear of Public Speaking

Ways to overcome your fear of speaking in public

FIND THE COACHING QUESTION  HERE THAT CAN BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE IN SPEAKING

 

I came across this very question on a public forum – “Help! Will the fear of public speaking ever go away?” It prompted me to write down again the common things that keep people trapped in the fear of speaking in public and avoiding giving presentations at all costs.  So here is my answer for those of you who might have that question running in your heads and could do with some ideas on how to overcome that public speaking fear.

The most talented and articulate people can be stymied by their fear of public speaking. It is not uncommon to lock ourselves into a story about how we cannot speak in public. Even when there is more to be gained than lost by getting out there and taking the first steps to becoming better speakers. Yes it can be challenging. And, yes, it can go away!  If you are one of these, you might find thecoaching questions useful to get the root of what’s going on for you.

So what are the common patterns of the fear?

I keep a little track of what I see as the common patterns that stop us from sharing who we are and what we know in presentations. The way people think about their fear of public speaking is much the same. They often say to me.  “I’ve been trying to understand this. Why I do this?  What am I afraid of? I will just never get over it. I’m not going to be able to do this. People are looking at me. I will look foolish. I will forget what I am saying. I can’t handle the silence in the room.”

Here are the patterns I have found to come up over and over again. Are these familiar?

Fear of Humiliation

Nobody likes to feel humiliated. It’s like a raw, open wound. All we want to do is cover it up. Many of us in the past have been put in the spot light inadvertently and way before we wanted to be. We perceived it as the wrong kind of attention. Or the wrong time for people to see us at our most vulnerable. We equated it with making a mistake. It was about saying the wrong thing or just not being able to speak at all. We lock it in to our memory do whatever it takes to steer away from experiencing that feeling again. It becomes a permanent fixture in our minds, stored in the Do Not Enter Zone.

Coaching Question 1

Who or what in the past am I keeping the lid on to stop myself from growing? What story am I using to keep me from daring to do and be more? What if I allowed myself to be vulnerable and speak about it?

 Public speaking means performing

This is about confusing information-sharing with “performing.” Proving to yourself how good you are and using the standards of high-profile actors and public figures out there, who have been doing presenting for years. You do not have to copy them, but you could dare to give it a shot! You are not an actor. You are not being paid to speak. You don’t have to be funny. You don’t have to impress. You just have to share your information. What if you gave it that meaning?

Coaching Question 2

Who am I playing my life or my presentation to? A parent, a school teacher, a boss, an authority figure from the past? Where did I confuse sharing information with being a performer? What if I called my presentation an ‘information-sharing session?’

Perfectionism and Over-responsibility

All of us run a level or perfectionism in our lives, where nothing can be short of 100% perfect.  It is a strong point of view we hold when it comes to speaking in public. You think “I have to be perfect and right and know everything. I can’t forget anything or appear foolish in front of others.” We are also taking responsibility for making others create the ‘perfect’ impression of us, so we don’t feel those bad feelings of not being good enough.

Coaching Question 3

What if my audience wants me to be relaxed with being good enough as a standard? What if I can learn from this? Where am I trying to be over-responsible for the thoughts and feelings of my audience, as if I can control and manage them?

External References

This to me is at the heart of the problem the fear. We grow up with external references from the day we are born. We grow up through a time when others tell us who we are and what we do. We confuse people’s judgements with what could be true for us. Instead of asking ourselves how we define ourselves, we take on the opinions of others as real. If other people think it’s great, then I must be ok. Thinking that they are the ones with the right point of view. They have a point a view, yes! It is just one of many.

Coaching Question 4

What if I created a point of view that people are supporting me, wishing me well and only want the information I am giving them?

Blind Spots and Focus

When we function from a state of fear, we do have blind spots and our focus is only on one aspect of the whole experience. Think about this from 3-5 points of view and focus on what you are not seeing. So think about what’s going through the mind of those your audience. If you were in the audience and any one of the people watching, what would you be really thinking about? Some might be doing their shopping list for the weekend, thinking about a loved one, or just how long it will be until they get back to the pressing work piling on their desk. You may well be the last thing on their mind. Doing this exercise lightens your thinking. It may even make you laugh. Your presentation is really not as significant as the meaning you are giving it.

Coaching Question

What if I am giving this more significance than I need to? What if the audience is full of a mix of distracted, attentive and supportive people? Will this matter in 20 years?

An Undeveloped Skill of Public Speaking

A default line of thinking around presenting is ‘if I can talk, I must be able to present.’ No, not true! Presentation skills are a whole different ball game. They are learned like anything thing else. Over the years I have learned that there is a structure to giving a talk in front of people. There is a way to put a message together in a simple way. Telling stories and using your body language and voice to get that across to people is part of the delivery process. It take understanding of how to do it and practice to get better at it.

Coaching Question

What can I do to start developing this skills? Where are the opportunities to speak in front of group where I can feel slightly comfortable? What would it take for me to take a chance and show myself to the world?
In the public speaking courses I have delivered over the years, I had to do it differently to get people out of the nervous states.  This was even before they could look at putting a presentation together. No amount of well-meaning encouragement boosted confidence, without digging out the root cause of the fear. The number one thing for me is to show people what’s sitting underneath it first. Then we have to clear it out. That’s where coaching gets to the heart of what’s going on in a constructive, gentle way.  It is only then that we can work on developing presentation skills in a course.

The good news is, you can get better, feel more at home at the top of the room and share yourself with the people in front of you.  If you rebuild the foundations which are about beliefs and the meaning you give to presentations, you can become the speaker you want to be. It truly is possible.

 Learn More About  Public Speaking Courses

 About the Author: Shiera O’Brien is a business and soft skills trainer and coach who works with sales and executive management teams and individuals across industries to get better results from their business conversations and presentations. In any workshop  or coaching session, there is a total focus on 1) what current results are you getting, 2) what skills are needed to improve the results 3) what behaviours are operating. Shiera works to bring awareness to what is going on from an observational standpoint, without judgement, using tools she has learned in 12 years in the field of coaching.

Public Speaking – How to make it work for you

What makes an effective presentation?

What can you do?

 

How can I improve my presentation skills in a short space of time? What will it take to be a better public speaker? This is a question on the minds of many of you who are giving presentation to their clients and peers every day. You have a short space of time to make a point. You probably are doing more or will have to do more as you progress in your career? So a few reminders.

Make presentation skills part of your personal development plan

When you think about giving a presentation, are you delighted at the prospect of sharing your knowledge or does an old familiar feeling of dread emerge at the prospect of speaking in public?  Developing your skills in this area should really be part of your on-going professional development plan, but here are some tips on getting more comfortable with your audience.

1. Your presentation is about your audience

When you are speaking in public and have an audience watching you, there are two thing that matters, how you are managing yourself and how your audience is experiencing your presentation. The first you can control, the latter you can only influence. How can you help the audience have a quality experience in what they see and hear from you as a presenter?  Everything you say should help the audience understand the purpose of the presentation, get something valuable from what you are saying and walk away with an action. How many times have you sat in a presentation bored to death by the long introductions about the merits and the great achievements of the speaker? Save this information til last and only present it if it’s relevant. Nowadays, people are overloaded with information and they can only take in what is relevant, so make it all about your audience,  and work with the idea that ‘less is more.

2. PowerPoint is a support tool, not the star of the show

PowerPoint presentations are as ubiquitous a tool as the phone in business. People are used to cramming their PowerPoint with information, bullet points and very often using it as a reading tool throughout the presentation. This doesn’t always create the intended impact. To improve a PowerPoint presentation, it is important to understand what the purpose of it is. It is there as a visual support tool, not a reading tool and it is not meant to be centre stage.

When you design your PowerPoint, a rule of thumb to make the most impact is: Think three minutes per slide. The more visual pictures you have, the better. Use only key words and images to convey an idea. Take advantage of the SmartArt to demonstrate stats or flow charts or to link your ideas. It will ensure your audience retains more. The most important thing is to get rid of all those bullet points. Everything you have in the bullet points, turn it into a hand out and combine this with the visual graphics on your PowerPoint software. One important but often forgotten idea: Never turn your back to the audience and read from the slides on the wall. Read from your laptop and use one the best tool out there, a clicker to help you navigate the slides. There is nothing worse than seeing a presenter move back and forth to the keyboard to move to the next slide. Keep looking at your audience, no matter what. Maintain eye-contact with your audience.  It keeps the rapport and connection with them.

3. Put some pizazz in your presentation

When making a presentation, where you are working to convince your audience of your ideas, the most powerful way to make an impact is to develop a presentation style that works for you. You do not have to be a slick charismatic presenter.  It helps, but it is not essential. The most important thing is that you connect with your audience by how you present. The key points to remember are: Stories work really well in a presentation. People like sharing and hearing stories. They are easier to remember for the presenter and definitely help you to relax. Build your presentations on a story if you can. Include questions to stimulate interaction with the audience. Develop a logical progression in your presentation that is easy to follow. Keep your presentations as short as you can. Work on your voice and ensure the audience can hear and understand you. Much can be lost through poor voice projection and diction. The back wall in the room needs to be able to hear you.

4. The presenter’s mind-set – try it on

If you want to improve your presentation skills, there are a number of things you can do while waiting for the opportunity to show off your skills. Firstly, get at much practice as you can, especially if you are one of those people who have a fear of public speaking or dread the idea of speaking in front of your professional peers. Key to developing your presentation skills is to cultivate a professional presenter’s mind-set.

What you do in your mind will show up in your body. Start with giving the presentation a quality meaning and a quality inner script, such as,  ” Train your mind to relax about the idea of being seen speaking in public and having people look at you.  Learn from every experience and keep telling yourself that you are well able to do it. Developing your skills is a lot about training your mind until it behaves exactly the way an experienced driver does when they get into their car.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

If you still suffer from nerves when you are about to speak in public, then you will need to do a bit more practice. Presentations skills are just that – “skills” The only way it is going to get better it to practice, practice and more practice. When you have an idea of what you want to present, then develop your ideas.  Put them into your PowerPoint presentation based on the tips listed above. Create the story and the points you are going to make. Plug your PowerPoint into a projector and practice is a few times as if you are in front of the audience.

Visualize a positive response from your audience and rehearse it until you feel very comfortable with the material. As the brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real or imagined, I suggest you continue practicing in your mind, seeing your speech or presentation going really well and being well received by your audience. On the day of the presentation, try to speak with your audience in an informal way before you have to speak. That way you won’t get a shock at the sound of hearing your voice in the room for the first time.

If you take every opportunity to speak, you can only get better and build the confidence to speak in public, without giving it a second thought. Give yourself permission to enjoy it. You may even get to a point where you really enjoy giving them. There’s a thought!

You may also like…

Terrified of Public Speaking? Here’s Why ; Fear of Public Speaking – How to overcome it ; Public Speaking Tip – Create a presentation in 10 minutes

About the Author: Shiera O’Brien is a business and soft skills trainer and coach who works with sales and executive management teams and individuals across industries to get better results from their business conversations and presentations. In any workshop  or coaching session, there is a total focus on 1) what current results are you getting, 2) what skills are needed to improve the results 3) what behaviours are operating. Shiera works to bring awareness to what is going on from an observational standpoint, without judgement, using tools she has learned in 12 years in the field of coaching.

The Art of Public Speaking – How people create a fear of public speaking

The fear of public speaking is often quoted as the number one phobia ahead of the fear of dying. The question is “Why do people dread public speaking so much and what can they do to overcome it?

A phobia is a well-practiced state of fear. Like all skills, a phobia is a skill, albeit a very useless skill. It’s particularly useless when you have to stand in front of a room and give a presentation and look into a hundred pair of eyes and your body starts to go into an unwanted state of fear. This is the perfect occasion to use that phrase “It’s all in your head.” Speaking from my own past experience I remember going through this on numerous occasions before I stopped one day and wondered whether public speaking skills were skills I had not yet learned.

So if you are one of those with public speaking phobia, perhaps you have reached a point where you are asking yourself “How can I stop doing this and what causes me to do this?” A phobia is very simple and complex at the same time. Very simply, you are running a movie your run in your head that has layers of scripts and meanings about standing at the top of a room, while others watch and listen. The movie has sound, pictures and feelings built into those meanings. It’s the Neurosemantics of speaking and how you carry the meaning in your body. We all carry either healthy, empowering meanings or crazy, disempowering meanings in all situations in life. The key to unlocking them is to become aware of how you talk to yourself.

Every meaning you have about anything puts you in a state, where you have thoughts and feelings about something. In this incidence, you are thinking and feeling fearful thoughts about public speaking. The problem is how you are thinking and feeling and the meanings you are giving to i.t Like any habit, if you do it often enough, as you think of giving a PowerPoint presentation in public, you will trigger your brain into the public speaking phobia STATE or the fun STATE of sharing knowledge with others. Notice the two different meanings in each of these states? One empowers and one disables.

Anytime I work with people in helping them overcome their fear of public speaking, I hear the same story and script about how they “dread public speaking”. It is always pre-empted by “I know it’s stupid, but” followed by “it takes me back to that time when I was in school and my name was called out….” Perhaps this resonates with you.

Our mind-body system is great at storing all the experiences we have had, both good and not so pleasant. Then it keeps reminding us, in this instance, to “steer clear of that experience, because it’s dangerous.” This is never going to help you improve your public speaking skills. So stop right now and let’s see how are skilfully building your fear of public speaking. Then I am going to give you some tips on how to overcome it.

To get into your phobic state you have to think about what you fear

These are the typical fearful meanings I come across from clients: Fear of humiliation. Not knowing something. Losing face. Being looked at. All eyes on you. People judging you. Reliving a past unpleasant moment where you didn’t know something when you had to speak in public. Sounding stupid. Disliking silence or disliking the sound of your own voice. The list goes on. Your mind runs that movie and before you know it, you don’t want to go there and run through that awful experience in your mind. Of course, you don’t just do this awfulzing once. You do it over and over as you think about that important Powerpoint presentation that you have to give at your sales meeting or to your customers. I am not saying this isn’t real, because phobias are real to people.

Meanwhile the presentation you could be giving is lost to these irrational thoughts, based on your own internal judgements about other people’s judgements of you that you are making up anyway.

To create and build the phobic state you have to give yourself a phobic script

“What if I don’t know something? What if I sound stupid? What if I forget something? What if they think I am stupid? I am going to panic.“ To really take it up a notch, you have to use an internal tone that is pretty harsh ad critical or fearful. Most of these scripts are hypothetical meanings about an event that hasn’t happened. All this is doing is pulling you away from doing the right kind of preparation for your presentation. What you tell your brain is going to determine how successfully your present to your audience. So a healthy script is vital to your success.

To continue that phobic state you have to carry a posture of fear

So while you awfulize and run the horror movie of your presentation going badly wrong, your body takes on a posture of fear ready for the fight-or-flight scenario. You notice your voice and breathing change. Your body temperate may go up and you may notice a tremble.

It’s time to stop this and find more pleasant movies to run in your head. Ask yourself “Can I physically speak? Yes? Can I communicate? Yes? Can I put ideas into a logical sequence so others can understand it? Yes?” Then all you need is a better sequence in your mind to run a quality presentation when you are at the top of the room.

So are there any cures for the fear of public speaking?

The first cure is to understand what you are doing and recongize the symptoms as a call to stop and notice what you are doing, when you run the fear of public speaking. You are skilfully building a state of mind that wants to protect you from a perceived threat; possibly generated by memories of a one-time event where you felt fearful in front of an audience.

There are three steps to overcoming your phobia:

1. Manage your State

Manage your state of mind by doing 3 things after you have done your preparation and arranged your ideas. Visualize a positive result, where you see yourself, speaking calmly, sharing information, allowing the audience to make up their own minds about the information you are sharing. Tell yourself that this will go fine. Let go of the need to impress anybody and let them decide what the presentation is about for them.

2. Manage Your Meanings

The meaning of public speaking is the most important piece to practice. Give yourself some new meanings in your script, for example, “It’s just a conversation, where I am standing up and sharing information. People want to learn. They are only interested in the message. I allow myself to be seen and heard in public, knowing that everybody supports me. I know my subject. I’ve practiced it. I can relax. People will think what they think.” Coach yourself on your meanings and write down at least 5-10 healthy meanings you could give to public speaking. You will transform your presentation by that alone, if you do it on a consistent basis.

3. Take Command of your Presentations

The most important thing is to take command of your presentations. Here are 5 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills. Remember, you are in charge of the information, what you are going to say and how you are going to say, the speed at which you are going to say it. If you prepare well, then decide that you are only going to say 3 things. Imagine you are sharing those three pieces of information with the most supportive people you know. Set some frames around the presentation, why you are giving it and what you are going to talk about. To really get comfortable in the room, start with some story, question or some casual conversation with your audience, so it’s not the first time you are speaking. Most important of all, be present to yourself and your audience and enjoy the conversation that you are having while standing up. How’s that for a healthy meaning? Henry Ford often used to say “if you think you can or your think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

 

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