Some people love to be on stage and deliver presentations at my workplace. Others, like me, are terrified of public speaking, and shy away from opportunities to speak up or present at the meetings.
Whenever I am asked by my supervisor to present at our bi-annual board meeting, I make up some excuse not to do this. I know that presentation and oral communication skills are considered an essential part of my job and in today’s labour market.
How can I overcome my inability to present to groups or at public events?
Signed: Hiding Behind the Desk (HBD)
Your fear of public speaking is common. Do not despair because anyone can learn to deliver an inspiring and engaging presentation or speech with confidence in any kind of spotlight. In an article titled
Own the podium with tips from a public speaking pro, Globe and Mail’s Dianne Nice provides some interesting strategies to consider on “owning the podium” and overcoming your stage fright in public speaking presentations. I will include my own two cents as well regarding your participation at your team meetings.
Consider joining a public speaking program, such as Toastmasters (you can find a local meeting here); attend the meetings and start taking risks by participating in the meetings as much as possible. Practice as much as possible in this safe learning environment. Make sure your supervisor knows that you are taking the initiative to learn how to speak in public and gain presentation skills on your own so that you can improve your work performance (and personal too).
Be vulnerable. Acknowledge your mistakes, flaws and strengths. Welcome your humanness. Being able to show your weakness is a great strength and audiences or groups will appreciate it. Don’t act as if you are the expert.
Be conversational and vocal at the team meetings. Obtain the agenda prior to the meeting so that you can prepare a couple of questions in advance to ask in these sessions. Practice in front of a mirror (or with a co-worker or your boss if you are comfortable) and then swallow hard and ask away. Listen to the feedback from the group and analyse the responses. Try to see if you can extrapolate additional questions for the current or future meetings, depending on the time-frame and deadlines. Don’t speak in jargon terms or with abstract concepts. Be clear when you make your point.
Dress appropriately. Don’t wear anything too flashy at your presentations. Look good, but you want your message and comments to have the power.
Keep it simple. Develop and deliver a presentation at one of the upcoming meetings with permission of your supervisor. Pick a topic with her approval. Use cartoons, comic strips, funny quotes and images to illustrate your point. Video clips are great too. Balance these humorous techniques with the content. The focus should be on you, the speaker, and not the screen.
Know your audience, so to customize your presentation. Do your research on the topic, the team members and the agenda’s objectives and target your presentation accordingly.
Practice as much as possible before you present. This is one of the best (and only) ways to get over your shyness and state fright. Find a safe audience such as the Toastmasters group, your friends, family and/or co-workers. Test your presentation out at a Lunch & Learn session at your workplace (bringing coffee/donuts or treats always works!).
Be yourself. The worst mistake presenters do is to be too formal, rigid and scripted. Remember, the presentation is a teaching/coaching moment at your meetings. Focus on the message, knowledge and information you are sharing with your team.
I am sure you will soon be a public speaking pro and be a more valued employee, especially if this skill is considered essential at your workplace.