6 Tips to Conquer Your Fear of Presenting

January 23, 2020

Move through your fears of public speaking and tap into your natural skills at telling a good story.

Front and Centered blog

I like to talk. A lot. Sure, it can be aggravating — to others. My kids and wife constantly say, “Dad you talk too much, “ “Dad please be quiet,” or “Dad no one is listening!” Truth be told, it’s why one of my micro resolutions for 2020 is to listen more.  

But I genuinely love meeting people and getting to know them. Talking is a key part of that. And in spite of their objections, when everyone is around the table talking at holidays, my daughter will always ask “Dad can you tell that story about when you were a kid, or when you were in college, or your first day of work, or last week at the grocery store.” Because people love to hear stories.

What people often miss is that all that talking is actually just practice at building presentation skills. Because great presenters are really just good storytellers.  

I love to help others overcome their #1 fear PB-US-Blog-Inline-Presenters-great-storytellers

This week, I facilitated a training session as part of design thinking course we offer at SEI. My session was on giving presentations. I usually give this training a couple of times a year and I genuinely love it. I learn so much each time and it reminds me why I like to present.  

Teaching is my passion, and training is just a form of that. Traditional or non-traditional, so many teachers have helped me in my life, and I see training others as an opportunity to give back. I love sharing what I have learned, especially if it will help others manage their fears or feel better or about something they struggle with  – like giving presentations. 

According to many studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. If this is you, you are not alone. So many people get nervous when they present. They have a lot of negative self-talk, which leads to self-doubt. “What if I mess up?” “What if I forget something?” “What if the audience does not like me or they disagree with me?” Training people helps me appreciate why others may fear presenting.

Break the mental model of presenting 

Like many things in life, it’s not as hard to overcome this self-doubt as you may think. The trick is to reframe your thinking and break your mental model of what presenting is all about. That is what I discuss in my training session. These 6 tips can help you move past negative self-talk and into great presenting. 

6 tips to channel your inner storyteller

As I was preparing for my training session, I thought about how many people dread presenting. I decided I should share my tips with the Front and Centered community. So here goes:

  • Presenting is just talking to a friend — you know how to do that. Do not make it bigger than it is.
  • Be you — do not try to act like someone else when you are presenting. Present authentically and from the heart.
  • Preparation is the key (not memorization) — know what you want to communicate. Know the beginning, middle and end to your story. Think about your key messages, rather than trying to reiterate every piece of data on the topic.
  • Entertain the audience — make the room a safe place for everyone to share, engage and learn. Some messages are harder to deliver than others, and those will require the audience to be engaged and interested in listening. The best storytelling will drive the action you want them to take from your presentation.
  • Feel free to evolve your story on the fly – you cannot change the facts of story or lie, but you can make key parts feel bigger and more exciting—if it adds to the energy of the presentation. Read the room, trust your intuition  and adjust your dialogue to what they find most engaging.
  • Be vulnerable – you are not there to argue, you are there to present an idea. If someone disagrees with that idea, it’s ok. You earn credibility when you don’t get defensive and instead hear the person out. Engage in conversation with the audience, learn their perspective and respect it. Worry less about being right; you are trying to communicate an idea, and hopefully move your audience towards action.

Presenting is hard for people when they try to make it a science, a best practice, or an expertise – which it really isn’t. It’s just talking, but to a larger crowd.  

Share your own tips!

Maybe you are a master storyteller and the stage is your happy place. If that’s the case, I would love to hear your tips for overcoming the world’s greatest fear, and so would the Front and Center community.  Share by commenting below.  

For everyone else, keep practicing!  We all gather with friends and family, and constantly share stories.  I bet you did that this past weekend or plan to do it today or tomorrow.  That’s how you practice, so keep at it!  And the next time a friend says “remember when…,” smile and know they are quite possibly practicing their presentation skills.

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Al Chiaradonna