Whether it is being invited to say a few words at a friend’s 50th birthday celebration, asked to be the master of ceremonies at your brother’s wedding, or requested to share your expertise with a community group, there is a good chance the mere thought of getting up in front of a crowd will cause you to break out into a cold sweat.
It is no different in the workplace. Stage fright – or the fear of public speaking – often arises at the thought of being judged harshly by a crowd of critical colleagues or clients.
There is little doubt speaking in front of others can be intimidating and an experience many try to avoid.
At the same time, public speaking – either virtually or in person – has become a key component of an increasing number of jobs.
Many add to the stage fright with poor presentations or common gaffes, all of which can easily be avoided.
Tips for a smooth presentation
For a start, be smart with the amount of information you cram into any slides used to support your presentation.
When you pack just about everything you plan to say into slides, there is little incentive for those in the audience to tune into what you are saying.
The audience ends up reading a slide and then playing on their smartphones while they wait for you to move to the next slide.
To make matters worse, some presenters read their slides word for word rather than talking to them and highlighting to the audience any key points they wish to make.
And if reading slides does not kill off interest in your presentation, apologising that a slide might be too difficult to read for the audience most certainly will.
If you need to say “I’m sorry if this diagram appears a little blurry” or “I’m hoping that you can read the fine print” then you should ask yourself why you had even considered including the material in the first place.
After all, a great presentation is about clarity not confusion.
However, simply cleaning up one’s act when it comes to the use of slides does not guarantee your presentation will hit the mark – but a confident approach might.
So avoid telling those in your audience that are “really nervous” or that you “are not good at getting up in front of a crowd”. While many speakers believe remarks like these will trigger empathy from the audience, the reality is somewhat different.
Nerves are not always evident to others so it is best to let an audience determine for themselves whether you are feeling anxious or not.
Presenting to colleagues and clients can be unsettling.
Therefore, taking a few simple steps to avoid common slip-ups can not only result in a more polished public speaking engagement but also make a massive difference to your confidence levels.