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Public Speaking Anxiety: Facts, Stats, and Methods to Beat It

If you’re suffering from glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. An estimated 75% of the world population suffers from some degree of public speaking anxiety.

Don’t worry. Public speaking anxiety doesn’t have to hold back your career.

Most people cope with their anxiety through avoidance. But since public speaking and presentations are important in most work environments, this isn’t a viable option. Your career might require you to step up to the podium, and it doesn’t have to become the dreaded scenario you’ve imagined.

Deal with the symptoms

Public speaking anxiety manifests itself through different physical symptoms, some of which are listed below:

  • breathlessness
  • fast heart rate
  • shaking or trembling
  • cold sweat

These are caused by your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Calm your body down through some relaxation methods.

The easiest thing you can do is to take slow, deep breaths until you feel your heart rate slow down.

Prepare as much as you can

With your “fight or flight” response triggered, you’re sure to encounter problems concentrating. When you feel your mind has gone blank, you’re more likely to stammer thoughtlessly through your presentation.

Most people identify this as the main cause of their public speaking anxiety. Prepare for your upcoming presentation as much as you can to avoid being swept away by your nervousness.

Your preparations should include creating a script and memorizing its general structure. Don’t write down everything you want to say and memorize it word for word. Your delivery might become stiff and lifeless. Worse, you might forget what comes next.

Practice your speech consistently. Do it in front of a mirror until it feels like second nature. If you can, gather a small group of people you trust and have them sit through your rehearsal. Ask them for any pointers or advice for improvement.

Maintain a positive outlook

Focusing on negative thoughts can make your public speaking anxiety worse. It’ll be hard to completely eradicate your concerns, but try to frame them into a more positive outlook.

Identify your concerns and listen to the negative thoughts that feed them. Ask yourself why you might feel this way, and give yourself some positive reinforcement.

For example: You’re anxious that the audience will be dismissive of your presentation and judge your authority or knowledge on the topic at hand.

Instead of questioning your ability to deliver, remind yourself of the research and preparation that went into your presentation. If they bring up anything you’ve missed, don’t take it as a personal attack but a helpful criticism you can use to improve your work.

The Takeaway: Acknowledge your fear

People with public speaking anxiety often fight to hide their fears from their audience. This will only aggravate your nervousness by giving you one more thing to worry about.

As the statistics in the infographic suggests, your public speaking anxiety is perfectly normal. It’s even likely that someone from the audience has the same fears that you do.

Once you’ve smoothened out the edges, having a well-designed PowerPoint presentation should match your winning pitch. But most importantly, it’ll help you connect with your audience better.

Despite your anxiety, remember that you’re not just addressing an auditorium of faceless people. You’re speaking to people with their own ideas on what they find interesting. If your audience is engaged and at ease, you’ll be able to relax and move forward with your presentation.

 

References

GlossophobiaAccessed June 11, 2014.
10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast.” WebMD. Accessed June 11, 2014.

Oscar Speech Sounds A Lot Like…..

Cue the famed actresses in overly expensive ball gowns. Cue the undeniably sarcastic and quirky host. Cue the applauses. It’s awards season in Hollywood.

The most prestigious, of the film awards, is of course the much anticipated Oscars. Every year The Academy nominates a few fortunate actors and actresses who are praised for their works in major motion pictures. It is a special award that every actor dreams of receiving. Only a few, however, are lucky enough to actually walk on stage and accept the gold statue themselves. After the nerve-wracking tearing of the envelope the winners are then presented on stage to deliver a speech. This speech defines their Oscar moments even as it is only done in less than two minutes.

So what can we compare an Oscar speech to?

 

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An Elevator Pitch

Short. Simple. Sweet. And most of all, straight to the point. An elevator pitch presents a product or service in as less time as possible – usually under two minutes.

An Oscar speech follows the similar concept. It delivered quickly, with the winner wrapping up his speech of gratitude and thanks in a very small amount of time. There are a few similar adjectives that we can use to compare a successful elevator pitch (which is usually paired with a PowerPoint presentation and a well rounded Oscar speech:

1. Short

An elevator pitch, just like an Oscar speech, should be between 30 seconds to two minutes. You should impose a strict time limit to your pitches. Drawing out your pitch will make your audience become disinterested in your points and, worse, stop paying attention.

As much as possible, get your points across swiftly and avoid using fillers. Condense your content into the simplest form possible within your pitch. Your goal is to allow audience to understand and learn.

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2. Memorable

Like many elevator pitches that investors and or potential clients hear daily, there are dozens of Oscar speeches going on throughout the night of the Academy Awards. A good pitch is one that is unique and becomes memorable over the other various pitches, one that stands out.

If your idea gets lost in a blur with the rest, it wasn’t a very successful one. You always remember the most unique speech of the night when you watch The Academy Awards. The same can be said for the most unique and successful pitch.

 85th Annual Academy Awards - Show

3. Passionate

An effective acceptance speech is one that is delivered with passion and pride. It simply draws you in. You can apply the same principles to an elevator pitch.

While a well-rounded Oscar speech ends with a riveting and memorable closing line, your pitch should end with a passionate power statement. When delivering a pitch, you want to present yourself to your audience as being as credible as possible. You can earn your credibility by pitching with plenty of passion.

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References

Argetsinger, Amy. “Nine Oscar Speeches That Changed the World.” Washington Post. February 22, 2013. Accessed January 20, 2014.
Ums, Likes and You Knows: Avoiding Fillers in Your Presentation.” SlideGenius, Inc. August 21, 2013. Accessed January 20, 2014.

Overcoming a Public Speaking Disaster: A Lesson from Michael Bay

If you have been paying attention to recent pop culture news feeds lately, you may have heard of the phenomenon known as, “The Michael Bay Meltdown.”

During a Samsung CES press event that introduced their new 150-inch model television, the famed director was supposed to describe the product in detail. He started out great. When the teleprompter failed, however, he decided to just give up and casually walk off stage. If you haven’t had a chance to see the viral video, you can check it out here.


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The fear of speaking in front of many people is a fear that most of us share. Whether it’s in front of an audience of one or a few hundred, public speaking can be intensely nerve-wracking. It causes any normal human being to experience moments of sheer panic. The best ways to learn from your presentation mistakes are to actually make them and adhere to these changes later down the road.

Though Michael Bay blamed the teleprompter failing for his public speaking woes, being the presentation specialists that we are, there are various lessons to take away from his blunder that could have, and will happen, to any presenter at any time.

1. Don’t Memorize a Script

Memorizing a script isn’t always good when it comes to public speaking. Talking points are far different than following an actual script or prompt, and focusing on memorizing your verbiage will allow for more opportunities to slip up and freeze. Though you should always be prepared with a script, don’t focus on remembering your content word for word.

Try to focus on describing and elaborating your information with your slides. If you slip up or get lost, your slides are there to highlight your talking points and act as an outline — which is crafted in your storyboard. Improvisation is always a great alternative if you slip up!

The mistake that Michael Bay made was that he was so focused on doing a word for word delivery. Unfortunately, it only caused him to freeze up. If he had just improvised his speech, this would’ve helped him get past the situation.

2. Being Honest Will Help You in The Long Run

Everyone is bound to slip up and make mistakes, especially with public speaking. Apologizing to your audience and throwing in some laughter will show how honest and sincere you are – and this is key to being a credible presenter.

If you can’t remember what to say, or mess up your words, just laugh it off to ease the situation then apologize and move forward. Chances are your audience wouldn’t have even noticed! If you get frustrated, just take a deep breath and continue to speak. Just giving up and walking off stage like Michael Bay did shows a lack of maturity and preparation.

3. Own Up to Your Mistakes

Michael Bay made a monumental mistake by announcing to his audience that the teleprompter failed. Never let your audience become aware of your faults. This not only takes away your credibility but shows them that you are not responsible enough to fix the errors yourself.

If technical difficulties occur with the PowerPoint presentation, a public speaking professional will step up and engage with the audience until the problem is solved.

Conclusion

All in all, there is no way you can prevent a presentation or a public speaking disaster from happening. Things will go wrong, you’ll get nervous and forget your words sometimes. But giving up entirely is never the proper, or professional, solution.

 

Reference

Watch: Director Michael Bay’s CES Fail.” Bloomberg.com. Accessed January 13, 2014.

Ums, Likes, and You-Knows: Avoiding Fillers in Your Presentations

Old habits die hard. Many of us have been “um”-ing and “you know”-ing our way through public speaking encounters our entire lives, sometimes without even realizing it. It’s something most of us do naturally when formulating our thoughts while speaking, but when the nerves run high during a presentation, our um’s and like’s have the potential to become a potent distraction.

First, do you even have a “filler” problem?

Most people use fillers in their presentations without even consciously being aware of it. It’s something that kicks in automatically when we’re recalling information to speak aloud. While we all dread the sound of our voice, a good exercise is to record yourself giving your presentation, then listen to the recording. You might surprise yourself by what you subconsciously utter when formulating your next statement. Becoming aware of your habit is the first step toward addressing it.

Don’t be afraid of the sound of silence.

No, I’m not talking about the memorable Simon & Garfunkel song, I’m talking about the process of accepting that it’s okay to have a presentation where you’re not constantly speaking. Doing this is the most important step in alleviating your filler problem.

A dramatic pause will give the words that follow it more gravity. If you watch any competition TV show (Like American Idol for example. Yes, I watched it. Lets move on.), then you almost certainly had your nerves wracked by the ridiculously long dramatic pauses of the hosts before announcing the winners and losers at the end of each show.

Take a tip from the master of dramatic pauses and use silence to your advantage.
Take a tip from the master of dramatic pauses and use silence to your advantage.

While a 10-second pause in your presentation will probably seem contrived in your professional presentation, there’s a lesson to take away from the way Ryan Seacrest uses drawn-out pauses to make us cling to the edge of our seats. Unprovoked silence can heighten the awareness of your audience, ensuring that they’ll pay significantly closer attention to whatever follows. So rather than filling your rapid pace talking with fillers, slow down, take deliberate pauses, and deliver your words with added weight.

Lastly, take a deep breath and relax.

When we start each sentence with “um” and begin talking at the speed of light, it’s usually the result of nervousness. When we’re already stressing about the fact that we’re giving a presentation, it’s hard to focus on the little nuances that make for good presenting. So before you step on stage, stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of the key things to focus on in order to ensure success in front of your audience.

References:

Putting Your Presentation before Your PowerPoint.SlideGenius. December 9, 2013.

A Guide to Tackling Stage Fright

In a corporate or professional presentation, there’s rarely a shortage of pressure to impress. We usually only have one shot with a client or investor, so it’s important to always make it count. Often heightened by this pressure not to choke, many experience serious stage fright when a presentation looms in the near future.

Shockingly, some people prefer this to public speaking.
Shockingly, some people prefer this to public speaking.

Most of us experience at least some sort of nervousness when speaking in public. While this can range from just mild discomfort to full-on panic, it’s an extremely common phenomenon. In fact, a recent study gave people the option between a mild electroshock and giving a short speech, and most people chose electrocution!

The adrenaline we experience prior to a presentation can be a distraction or a tool to help you focus; it’s all a matter of embracing it correctly. Here are a few tips to help channel your heightened anticipation in a positive way.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

It’s often instinctual to begin running through every possible awful thing that could go wrong during a speech when we become anxious about it. Getting stuck in a negative cycle of thought doesn’t do anyone any good, and if anything, over thinking these problems increases their chance of actually occurring.

Instead of sitting and brooding over what might go wrong, channel your energy toward something positive. When you feel yourself becoming anxious about a future presentation, address it in a constructive way. Run through your speech aloud or in your head, go through and edit your PowerPoint, or rethink your talking points. This will not only improve your speech, but this will also help provide you with a healthy distraction.

 

A Healthy Body and Mind are Key

Previously, we wrote about controlling one’s physiology for a presentation, which cannot be overstressed, especially when stage fright is a factor. Leading up to the presentation, avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol as much as possible.

Going for a run or taking a yoga class can help your body process stress much more effectively, which can help in alleviating the physical symptoms of stage fright.

Meditation can be a practical tool in relaxing and managing stress.
Meditation can be a practical tool in relaxing and managing stress.

Care for your mental health should be just as important. Deep breathing exercises are a great way to calm yourself down leading up a speech. Other alternatives are taking long walks or practicing meditation. Don’t underestimate these types of exercises when you encounter stressful situations.

Keep Your Focus on the Audience

Overcoming stage fright won’t be fixed overnight. Even if you do your best to follow the tips listed above, you may still be overwrought with nerves when it comes to show time. Here, it’s important to reinforce why you’re giving the speech: to present something of value to the audience. Try to put your focus on the message you’ll convey rather than being terrified about having to convey a message.

Most importantly, don’t shy away from fear of presenting. The more you practice and embrace speaking opportunities, the better and more comfortable you’ll be doing so.

Public Speaking Lessons to Take Away from “The King’s Speech”

Released to huge acclaim from audiences and critics in 2011, The King’s Speech details King George VI’s struggle to overcome his stammer and fear of public speaking, and his relationship with his unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue.

While it’s a very captivating movie, it also has a lot of practical application as a guide to public speaking, and there are many lessons to learn from the challenges King George VI overcame during his journey in becoming an effective public speaker.

Confidence is Key

The primary struggle of The King’s Speech is King George VI’s struggle to learn to trust his voice. Throughout the film, he learned to become comfortable in his own skin and accept his faults, which translated to overcoming his stutter.

Confidence is imperative to giving an effective presentation, especially during an investor or interview presentation where instilling confidence in one’s audience is a must. It’s difficult to fake sincere confidence, which emanates throughout your presentation in a variety of ways, but if you can’t find confidence in your ability to speak in public, a good substitute is to reassure yourself with confidence for what you’re presenting.

During the film, a primary reason “Bertie” developed his stammer and fear of public speaking was because he got caught in a cycle of negative reinforcement, where previous public speaking failures caused him to lose confidence in himself, and resulted in him continuing to give poor speeches because of it. After a bad presentation, it’s important to learn from your mistakes, then forget about the bad performance and move forward.

Realize There is Room for Improvement

Chances are you’re not the greatest presenter or public speaker on the planet. There is always room for improvement. However, for those who struggle with public speaking, the greater challenge isn’t realizing you have a problem, but openly addressing it.

Whether you seek to improve your public speaking privately, with a college course or elsewhere, the most important factor is that you are addressing the fact that public speaking is a challenge for you. Running and hiding from it will do nothing but make the problem worse.

One of my favorite moments in The King’s Speech was the conversation between “Bertie” and his speech therapist when he admitted he needed help:

“Lionel Logue: What was your earliest memory?
King George VI: I’m not… -here to discuss… -personal matters.
Lionel Logue: Why are you here then?
King George VI: Because I bloody well stammer!”

Practice

Every great presenter, especially those whose skill appears to be effortless and relaxed, became great through practice and repetition.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s popular book, “Outliers,” he presents the “10-hour rule” as the reason for success behind Bill Gates’ wealth and business success and the enormous popularity of the Beatles. He theorizes that these two entities had approximately 10,000 hours of exposure to their craft, which is what made them become so legendary.

Practice and experience produces success. Great presentations aren’t improvised. If you want to “wow” an audience, you have to put in the work.

Rehearse your presentation until it’s ingrained in your memory–to the point of monotony. Orchestrate your talking points with your visual aid.

Check out ‘The King’s Speech’ if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s a captivating film where you can find lessons ingrained within the challenges overcome by this tongue-tied monarch.

Controlling Your Physiology for Your Presentation

Can you guess what this is describing?

Your hands are disgustingly warm and sweaty, your heart is beating at frightening speeds, you knees are weak and you feel like you’re going to collapse. Your fingers can’t seem to stop pinching each other. Each breath you take is getting progressively harder and weaker. Those butterflies in your stomach (the ones that everyone talks about in romantic movies) seem to be flying viciously into places they’re not supposed to. In a matter of minutes, you seem to have developed a stutter and the ability to crack your voice like a pubescent thirteen-year-old boy.

In medical terms, it’s called glossophobia, but for those of us without PHDs, it is what most people feel before speaking in public.

Let’s be honest, nobody wants to wants to sit through twenty minutes of some guy twitching and sweating through a presentation about why their software is the latest and greatest. Controlling your physiology for your presentation is crucial if you want your presentation to have any value to your audience.

You may not be a presentation expert, but you can certainly train yourself to be able to give an interesting and effective corporate presentation. Here are a few tips for that:

Find a way to relax right before your presentation. Take deep breaths, wash your hands with warm water, listen to your pump-up song (Kanye West seems to do the trick for me), or stretch. Find something that gets rid of your nerves but keeps you focused at the same time.

Be the body for your presentation. Let your fingers point, your hands wave, and your shoulders shrug. Movement is good; it keeps the audience focused on you. Just make sure to have it under control. Don’t be excessive with it. Pinpoint three people in the audience: one on each far corner of your vantage point, and one smack in the middle. As you speak, alternate making eye contact with each. This will help you know where to look and keep any nervous movements away.

Smile and laugh; they’re both contagious. It is instinctive for people to smile at a smile. Since you are in control of the mood in the room while you presenting, use it to your advantage. Smile and look happy, and soon enough your audience will mirror that. Speaking to a public that seems genuinely interested and happy to hear what you are saying will ease your nerves and relax your body. This in turn will make your presentation more human and organic.

Prepare for perfection. In his Art of War, Sun Tzu explains how “every battle is won before it is ever fought.” Practice every scenario, every word and movement. A LOT! If your presentation is interactive with the audience or includes questions, anticipate them. Use them to your advantage. Practice in front of anyone and everyone. Time yourself. You can even record yourself for critique. Know what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, when you’re going to say it, and how people will respond to it. Do this, and you will have won the battle.

Sun-Tzu-Strategy