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Mar 21, 2017

This week's Tip: Sit in the back of the room

  Before you start your presentation, and before your audience enters the room, display your most complex slide, and sit in the back row.  Then sit in a few other places in the room. Your goal is to make sure you can see and read your slides from all points in the audience. You actually need to sit in the chairs to get the angles right and understand exactly what the audience sees. If your slides aren't legible, or you encounter other things that make it tough to consume and experience your presentation, you have time to fix them before you start. It's all because you literally put yourself in the place of the audience.  

Post Tip Discussion:

  It's almost cliché now for a Public Speaking tip site to repeat the claim that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying.  Is Public Speaking really so terrifying that people would rather die than give a speech?  No. That claim comes from a frequently misquoted study from 1973. You can read more about the study in this article: Is Public Speaking Really More Feared than Death?   There are a number of different strategy for dealing with nerves and glossophobia.   In "Your Perfect Presentation," Bill Hoogterp writes:
What you think of as nervousness is really just trapped energy…   The harsh truth is this:   Get over yourself.   Forget yourself. The speaker doesn't matter. Your magic happens when you focus on how to get your audience to know something and do something. To feel something…when you stop thinking it's about you, that is when your greatness begins to emerge. It's about the audience getting your content.
  In "Peak Performance Presentations," Richard Olivier and Nicholas Janni tell us:
Richard's father, Laurence Olivier, was a successful actor for over 50 years. A reporter once asked him, towards the end of his life, when he stopped getting nervous. He replied; "The day I stop getting nervous is the day after I should have stopped!" Being in front of a crowd is not a 'normal" occurrence; it is "special" and requires a special energy. Remember: Presentation is Performance.  
We use the image of "riding a tiger", with you being the rider and your nerves the tiger. If the nerves have you, it feels like you are being dragged off on a wild animal over whom you have no control, and whom you have good reason to fear. If you stop your nerves altogether it is like watching a tame, doped-up tiger in a circus (claws and teeth removed for safety). But there is no "bite" and no interest. However, if you and the tiger are "in flow" there is an exciting edge that others enjoy watching.
In the Harvard Business School anthology called "Presentations that Persuade and Motivate," we learn:
The only reason to feel nervous is to use that adrenaline to speak with more energy. Because presentations aren't about you, the speaker. They're about the audience. Good public speaking begins with respecting the audience. The moment you realize that it's not what you say that counts in the end, but what the audience hears, you will be on the road toward becoming a great speaker. And you'll forget about your own nervousness.
Ultimately, one of the best ways to manage the fear of public speaking is to prepare, practice, rehearse, and do it all over again. Focus on delivering your core message -- the message your are passionate about -- to the audience, and give the audience the best experience you can.
And sometimes all you can do is be nervous -- be afraid -- and get out there and do it anyway.
For especially severe case of glossophobia, the kind that prevents a person from living the life they want to live, other professional assistance may be a good choice.  Many organizations have an EAP, or Employee Assistance Program, that many folks don't take advantage of and often forget exists.

Call to Action:

  • How do you manage stage fright, glossophobia, or public speaking anxiety? Let me know in the comments below.
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  • Next time you present, be sure to check out what the audience sees from the back row.
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