The term “glossophobia” isn’t one that a lot of people are familiar with – which is unusual, considering it is said to affect as much as 77 percent of the population.
The word refers to a fear of public speaking; a daily struggle many professionals know all too much about. While some individuals seem to thrive in the spotlight, coming alive as they share their expertise on any given topic with confidence and enthusiasm, others experience sleepless nights at the very prospect.
Aside from the hurdle of conquering nerves and anxiety associated with public speaking, there is also the small matter of piecing together a presentation that will both engage and inform those at the receiving end. All in all, it’s a lot to take on.
As solicitors, we are no exception to the rule. Yes, much of our time is spent in an office setting working directly with clients on a one-to-one basis. But then there come the invitations to speak at a conference, or to deliver a lecture at a university, or to share our insights on a probing matter with a local committee. Oftentimes, getting comfortable with the art of public speaking equates to career progression, and it is therefore both a skill worth mastering and a fear worth conquering.
Read on to discover our top tips for curating and delivering a standout presentation – with a few helpful nerve-taming exercises to help you along the way!
Always put the audience first
If your anxiety surrounding public speaking is all-consuming, it is easy to place the bulk of your focus on how you’re feeling, when really, your concern should be directed at your audience and how they perceive the information you share. This involves implementing a state shift away from your own anxieties and towards the needs of others.
The sole purpose of your presentation should revolve around imparting knowledge onto the listener, regardless of what topic you are discussing. You’ve obviously been called upon to speak for a reason, so live up to your potential and make the opportunity worthwhile by examining elements like:
- your audience demographic
- the level they’re at
- the subject matter they are likely to be most intrigued by
- and most importantly, what information you have at your disposal that will serve to enlighten and inspire
Your speech should be structured with each of these agendas foremost to mind.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Speaking of structuring your speech and its delivery, it is imperative to pour adequate time into this vital exercise.
Begin by making an all-inclusive list of the topics you would like to address, then strip this back by selecting the most relevant or important points that will make their way into your final presentation. Your audience is taking time out of their day to listen to you speak; respect this by ensuring the content you share has value and significance.
The importance of preparation also extends to your performance. By practising the delivery of your presentation over and over during the preparatory stages, you can regularly familiarise yourself with both the subject matter and your presenting style, which will stand to you greatly when the showtime nerves kick in.
Grab – and hold – your audience’s attention
There’s nothing quite as draining as a presentation that drags on and on, with little dynamics and worse still, very few helpful takeaways.
The key to avoiding this and to delivering an insightful talk that piques interest from the get-go, is to grab your audience’s attention at the earliest moment, ideally from as early as 30 seconds in. To achieve this, make your introduction bold and impactful, perhaps by sharing a surprising statistic, a funny anecdote or even asking a rhetorical question.
Once you’ve captured their curiosity, it’s crucial to maintain this momentum for the duration by delivering a carefully structured talk (which you will have already covered having read the previous point – bonus!).
Don’t be afraid to get personal
Those with an innate dread for public speaking will likely be most put off by the performance aspect of the overall task. While you must exude a certain level of confidence when speaking in order to engage the audience, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to manifest a different character when you hit the podium – simply being yourself and allowing your personality to shine will pack an effective punch.
There’s no better way to achieve this than by sharing personal experiences or stories that will not only substantiate the points you’re trying to make, but will also give the audience a glimpse of who you really are, enabling them to connect with you on a deeper level.
Asking questions and directly engaging your audience in this way will further facilitate this. When a two-way conversation opens up between the speaker and the listener, the flow of the presentation will alternate between structured and natural, amping up dynamics and providing an effective change of pace.
Get your game face on!
Adopting a number of nerve-taming techniques before and during your presentation can help to focus your attention on calmly carrying out the job at hand.
- Work on reframing your thought process ahead of your talk by eliminating negative fears about the content of your presentation and how the audience will perceive you. Instead, replace these with positive feelings of excitement and purpose surrounding the quality of information you are about to share with those in attendance.
- Arrive early to get yourself set up. It doesn’t matter if you are addressing the crowd from a big stage or the top of a boardroom; allocating some alone time to be physically present in the space will allow you to walk the floor and familiarise yourself with your positioning in advance of showtime.
- Focus on mindfulness techniques that will help to calm your mind and release your body of nervous tension.
- Choose a focal point to direct your eyeline to until you feel comfortable enough to make eye contact with individuals. Find a spot that is roughly at a level with the audience, to make it appear that you are addressing them directly. As you ease into your presentation, you may feel relaxed enough to shift your focus on to the people in the room.
- Don’t be afraid to use the space. Walking around and turning to and from any visual aids you may be using will not only keep your energy levels up (and shift your attention from the many eyes looking up at you), but will encourage audience members to follow your movements with their gaze and remain engaged throughout.
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