They say that many people fear public speaking more than death. I used to be that way, back in school, but I discovered that there’s a secret.
In school, I was convinced that others in the classroom were there to berate and belittle me. Let’s face it, that was true to a large extent.
On the job, suddenly presentations were about sharing something that people wanted to hear. Whether that was in a training class, giving a status report, or presenting to the Big Boss, generally people are listening because they view me as an expert on the topic and want to know what I have to say.
That’s even true outside of work. Even if it’s at a funeral, people are there because they want to hear the stories and have companions through the grieving process.
For me, that’s largely removed my emotional barriers to speaking in front of groups. But that doesn’t make it EASY. Now the hard work is to create an experience that people are glad they were at.
I’m no expert on public speaking, but here’s a few things I’ve learned:
- People want their needs to be addressed. Since there’s a wide variety of needs and you often don’t know all of them in advance, it’s best to create an interactive environment rather than just standing up and speaking. Have a CONVERSATION.
- People learn better and have more fun when they’re involved. Mental disengagement is a huge problem, especially as people get more stressed and distracted. So help them to DO what you’re talking about, rather than just listen to you describe it.
- People can instantly detect when you’re not being authentic. The more of yourself and your personal style you can bring in, the better.
- Humor can be dangerous, especially in the work setting. It’s quite difficult to find jokes that don’t offend SOMEbody or at least set them off on a mental journey that you didn’t intend. But humor is a great way to bring energy into the room, and when it works, can help put everybody at ease. Be very aware of who your audience is, and start to inject more humor as the level of trust grows.
- Always focus on the value you’re giving to the audience. Continually check, and adjust as necessary. You’re not the most important person in the room.
After that, always be on the lookout for presentation techniques which will work with your style and fit the needs of your audience. There’s lots of great ideas and tools out there, and much of the world doesn’t revolve around reciting PowerPoint bullets.
by Carl Dierschow