The recent presidential debates have a lot of people asking what it means to be a “good” public speaker. Is it the way you look, the way you act, what you say? Paying attention to all these aspects of presenting is important. But let’s address the elephant in the room first…
In a survey about phobias recently commissioned by the National Institute of Mental Health, 74% of respondents rated public speaking as their number one fear, as compared to the next biggest fear, death, at 68%. As Jerry Seinfeld pointed out years ago, that means people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.
Before you step out on that stage, in front of that microphone, behind that podium or on that webinar considering the sources of fear can greatly reduce stage fright and allow you to perform your best without nerves hindering your ability to communicate effectively. As mentioned above, the way you look, act and what you say is what makes up your public presence. Being wracked with an upset stomach or shaking legs and hands can greatly alter that presence.
Reducing fear is necessary for mastering control of your presentation—and knowing what causes fear will allow you to nip it in the bud. One of the biggest sources of anxiety for public speakers is simply knowledge of the content of the presentation. Debating is one of the most stressful of presentation formats because you don’t know what to expect from your opponent or what content they may bring to the forefront. Luckily, very few business presentations involve heated, moderator-lead debate. Instead, studying your subject matter, knowing it inside and out and becoming an expert on the topic is what will ease your nerves and make you comfortable speaking credibly even without cue cards.
Embrace your key message
Now that you have internalized your content and pushed fear aside, how do you make your audience aware of your point and keep yourself on track? Keep you key message in mind and stick to it. Your key message is the overarching purpose for giving the presentation. It is what binds you to your audience and embodies your goal for the engagement. Your key message will be different based on the attendees at each event, so make sure you know who they are and why there are there—and mold your key message to their needs. This will guarantee interest in what you have to say.
Don’t go it alone
A huge factor in making sure your message will resonate and your delivery will impress is having someone you trust providing honest, constructive advice and feedback. For your part, accepting and implementing that feedback is critical. Have someone in your corner the way Rocky Balboa had Mickey—someone like us—to make sure you make a better impression than those made during the presidential debates.