How To Banish The Fear of Public Speaking

For many people confronted with the dreaded prospect of delivering a presentation all that is going through their mind is getting up on stage delivering the presentation with all good speed and getting off the stage.

As long as the message has been delivered and reinforced (usually by distracting and overloaded PowerPoint slides) that’s the job done. Thinking about how to win over the audience is the last thing on people’s mind but it is absolutely crucial.

Failing to win people over will result in 90% of the audience switching off from your presentation within the first 5 minutes; that should be regarded as a catastrophe, but regrettably it is alarmingly common.

In recent years I have made a point of asking people what they thought about a presentation that we have all sat through and it is truly horrifying how many people very quickly went off into their own dream world, so dull was the presenter.

It is not uncommon for 100 people to sit through an hour’s presentation and only 10 to be still listening after a few minutes – imagine all that lost working time.

What are the steps to winning over an audience and banishing the fear of public speaking?

Firstly – know them (if you can) and as early as possible get in a statement that you know they can identify with.

Imagine a politician addressing an audience of business people all of whom are running small independent operations and that politician’s opening remarks being ‘Red tape is strangling this country and impeding the ability of our entrepreneurs to thrive. We will reduce this burden at a stroke by taking the following actions …’.

As long as the actions made sense to the audience they will have been won over completely and utterly. The rest of the speech will now be so much easier to deliver and the fear of public speaking is lost.

Compare this to a speaker with an audience comprised solely of people working within finance departments being greeted with the remarks ‘this initiative will allow us to reduce those working in finance areas by 50%’. No great surprise to hear that this initiative was resisted with all the gusto of a sprinter trying to win Gold at the Olympics!

Secondly – when you deliver this audience winning statement look them straight in the eye as you say it and see how the audience rapport builds as they look back at you. Feel the bond forging between the two of you as they do.

Thirdly – when you have finished delivering that winning statement pause briefly to allow the audience to absorb the statement and quite possibly shake their head in agreement.

Fourthly – during the rest of the speech engage with the audience by asking them rhetorical questions knowing that their answers are going to be in the affirmative.

Finally – and this particularly applies to a speech over ten minutes in length; use humour to lighten the mood. This will ensure that the attention of the audience never drifts off.

Knowing that you have won an audience over is one of the best feelings in the speaking world.

Article courtesy of College of Public Speaking & Presentation Skills – London

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