Fear of presentation

The fear of public speaking is termed as among the top most fears of the world where some of the surveys rank it more than the fear of death. The authenticity of these surveys can be questioned but a litmus test can be when your boss asks to u give a presentation in the next board meeting or the management committee meeting. Most of us can feel the sudden increase in our heart beats.

On the contrary you will find some people who are less concerned about giving presentations and do not prepare for it and end up giving poor presentation. What will happen when you don’t do your preparation for the presentation:

  • You come across as incompetent
  • Waste yours and others time
  • Scrap future opportunity
  • Show disrespect to others
  • Make the audience angry and frustrated

In both cases we need a certain set of skills and lots of preparation for giving an effective presentation.  So, how can one prepare it self for a good impactful presentation? In this piece, we will study a simple structure of any presentation and how to prepare for them.

A simple presentation follows the following structure:

  • Opening
  • Main Body
  • Closing

We will focus on opening and closing of the presentation as they carry the most impact in the shortest possible time.

Opening

Opening of the presentation is the time when you set the tone for the rest of the presentation. If your opening is not impactful and engaging, then you are sure to lose interest of your audience for the rest of the presentation. Following are some of the suggestions for the starting a presentation:

  1. Start with an end in the mind – You should start with the end decisions required from the audience. This is very useful technique for presenting in the boardrooms where you need a decision or approval in your favor
  2. Challenging statement technique – When you need others to understand the gravity of the situation you start with a challenging statement. For e.g. ‘if we lose this customer we will lose 30% of our total revenue.’
  3. Shocking statistics – Use statistics by presenting and rephrasing them in numbers, percentages, ratios, etc.
  4. Linking and bridging – When the presentation is in continuation of a previous meeting or presentation. For e.g. With reference to our previous meeting where the Board asked us to present the specific measures to improve the engagement score, we present….
  5. Inspiring story – this story can be of yourself, friend, any famous personality, etc. that links to the topic to follow.
  6. Humor – Though if you are in doubt that it may be interpreted in a different manner you should avoid it.
  7. Quotations
  8. Survey the room – This means that you ask a question from the audience. For e.g. How many of you have faced the parking problem in the office plaza? Those who face the issue please raise your hands.
  9. Pictures and videos – Don’t overdo it
  10. Rhetorical question – This refers to a question that you ask to respond by yourself rather than asking the audience. For e.g. Do you know how much is the water shortage in Karachi? It’s around 600 MGD.

The openings can be used where suitable, not all the above techniques are suitable for a board room presentation and are more relevant for pear or subordinate session. Whatever technique you use, keep in mind that audience will follow the presentation when they believe that there is something useful for them. If they believe that there is nothing in it for me then they will disengage.

To make your opening impactful you follow the following steps:

  • Shut your slide off and stand in the middle
  • Pause for a while to gather attention of your audience
  • Give everyone sitting a brief eye contact
  • Use appropriate facial expression (i.e. for good news have a smile, for any serious matter stay calm with assertive expression)
  • Standstill in the middle during your opening statements. Avoid moving

Closing

Now its time to give a killer punch to the presentation you have built from your powerful opening and fact filled main body. Most presentations don’t get the desired result because the presenter fail to make clear what action it requires from its audience. The closing should be drafted very carefully giving a very little chance for the audience to misunderstand the purpose of the presentation. A good closing generally follows some similar steps as we discussed above in the opening. These steps are as follows:

  • Shut your slide off again and stand in the middle
  • Pause for a while to get audience attention
  • Tell the audience that you have come to the end of your presentation. For e.g. In the end, I would require the Board to approve the budget of USD 100 Million for the preliminary expenses of the project.
  • Standstill in the middle and avoid moving. Movement can cause distraction.

Some of the manners in which a closing remarks can be structured are as follows:

  1. Summarize – summarized what you have been discussing through out the presentation and emphasize on the conclusion
  2. Decision – Ask the audience the decisions required to move forward. These
  3. Recommendation – Based on the main body of your presentation suggest the recommended action
  4. Big message – Summarize your presentation in quote or verse that relates to the action you require from your audience
  5. Before and after picture – Show the audience the impact your recommendation will have by displaying a before and after comparison or picture

The closing part of any presentation is the most remembered and is actually the part where you require maximum attention of your audience. No matter how dull  the main body of your presentation was, if you are able to engage the audience in your conclusion and persuade them on the action required your presentation will serve your purpose.

There are several other tips and methods that can be used to make your calm and overcome the fear of presentation. However, it is not desirable to list them all in here. To sum it up it is not easy to fight the fear of presenting to any size or type of audience. However, with vigorous preparation (some research suggests that you prepare as much as 10 times before presentation, especially the opening and closing part) you will surely overcome the fear. In your initial preparations you may have to fake the style you want, but with continuous practice it becomes your natural style. I hope the next you present you do it with more preparation and conscious effort to overcome the fear of presentation.

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