On the Everwise Answers forum, our community of experienced mentors give advice on the sorts of business cases, dilemmas and questions that our high-potential protégés frequently encounter. These are expert opinions. For more business best practices delivered right to your inbox, sign up here.
Question: Your new position demands you do plenty of public speaking, but your palms get sweaty just thinking about it. How can you conquer your cold feet and also create quality talks?
Chris just moved into a new role that requires a fair amount of public speaking. He is excited about this opportunity, but secretly dreads every time he has to address an audience. How can Chris both overcome his stage fright and craft better presentations?
1. The Right Mindset
Chris isn’t the first to feel this way. “It is a well known fact even the great orators sometimes feel uneasy addressing a large gathering of people,” reassures healthcare expert Dr. Venkateswar Rao. Knowing that others get the same jitters can help quell some of Chris’ anxiety.
He can also imagine that the audience is made up of his colleagues. “Think like you’re among peers,” suggests technology consultant Joseph San Filippo. This can help suppress uneasy feelings of being judged. After all, as marketing maven Chris Doelle points out “these are just people. They want you to succeed.”
Chris should also rest easy knowing that he was chosen for a reason. He’s presenting because of his expertise and the audience is there to listen to what he has to say.
2. Plan, Prepare, Practice
Vijaya Sreekanta, an expert behavioral skills trainer, tells Chris to abide by “The three Ps of presentations…Plan, Prepare, and Practice”.
- The first step to success is having a strategy. “Always know your audience, and start with content that will engage your listeners if you can,” proposes marketing expert Amy Little.
- “Know your topic like an expert, research it from diverse angles,” says communications industry professional Gustavo Magallanes. This way, even if Chris forgets part of his presentation or has a technical mishap, he can recover smoothly because he knows the subject matter thoroughly.
- A solid understanding will also make his delivery seem more natural. Retail sales and distribution expert Shibaji Bose counsels Chris to think of “10 obvious questions that he anticipates from the audience.” Preparing answers to the questions beforehand will help keep Chris one step head.
- “The difference between a good presenter and a great presenter is practice, practice, and more practice. If you do anything 10,000 times you are 99.99% guaranteed to get perfect at it,” emphasizes sales executive Baris Vural. Chris should practice in front of a mirror, in front of friends or colleagues, or videotape himself.
3. Tell a Good Story
Once Chris has solid research, he needs to build a story. Chris shouldn’t just read a list of bullet points, but instead try to really engage his audience. “Make sure you have facts and a good narrative—story moves and facts prove,” banking strategist Ali Soheil says. Using facts to support a story will change Chris’ presentation from dry delivery to a more affecting performance.
4. Work on the Delivery
When looking out into the daunting audience, a helpful tip is to “just look at and speak to one person at a time and imagine they are the only ones who are in the audience…all the others just happened ‘to be there’,” offers financial consultant Greg Pride.
Lastly, although often forgotten but incredible important, “relax and slow down,” advises business strategist David Rayner. “When you think you have a good pace of delivery, slow it down by half. Silence that seems like an eternity to the presenter is natural and time to absorb what is being said to the audience.”
5. Help From Professionals
There are professionals and institutions that can help Chris overcome his stage fright. Executive career coach Sharon McCormick recommends that Chris find a public speaking or speech coach. “They can give you personal feedback and you can practice with them.”
Another option highly recommended by many mentors was to join Toastmasters, an educational program that would help Chris with public speaking and his leadership abilities. Marketing manager Jennifer Adam’s company Enterprise sponsored on-site Toastmaster sessions for a few associates, which “really helped them work through their issues around public speaking in a safe and judgment-free environment.” Joining this group would give Chris guidance and practical experience from a non-threatening audience.
There is plenty of great guidance available about these sorts of challenges, here are a few suggestions:
- “The Science of Stage Fright (and How to Overcome It)” (TED)
- “How to Cope with Your Stage Fright” (Forbes)
- “Embrace the Stage Fright” (Scientific America)
- “Reframing Stress: Stage Fright Can Be Your Friend” (University of Rochester)
- “Five New Ways to Handle Stage Fright” (Forbes)
Thanks to the Everwise mentors for their ideas, and to all the others who shared their recommendations on the forum.
- Dr. Venkateswar Rao (Texas) president and CEO of World Cross Roads Inc, expert in internal medicine, trauma, emergency and clinical research
- Joseph San Filippo (New Mexico) Owner of 5R Technology, expert in electrical system engineering and project management
- Chris Doelle (Texas) virtual CMO of Fresh Media Works, expert in marketing and it’s cutting edge technology
- Sharon McCormick (North Carolina) human resources specialist at Federal Senior Executive Service, expert in human resources and careering coaching
- Jennifer Adams (California) sr. product marketing manager at Enterprise, expert in global product launch strategy
- Vijaya Sreekanta (India) Head of team of trainers in behavioral skills at Manipal Academy of Banking, Bengaluru, expert trainer in communication, transactional analysis, conflict management, confidence building, and public speaking
- Amy Little (California) expert in lead generation, direct sales and account management
- Gustavo Magallanes (Texas) CEO at Brands & Trends, expert in advertising agencies and media outlets
- Shibaji Bose (India) partner at Positive Vibes Consulting & Advisory, expert in retail sales and distribution
- Baris Vural (Washington D.C.) global sales executive at TROY Group, Inc. expert in propelling corporate performance and profitability
- Ali Soheil (Canada) managing director of Gglobal Delivery & Strategy at the Bank of Montreal, expert in talent development
- Greg Pride (Australia) principal adviser at Centric Wealth, expert in financial consulting associated with retirement and other large sums
- David Rayner (New York) vice president of strategy and development at IdeaWork Studios Inc., expert in business strategy and project management