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Christmas 2005

Vol 1  Issue 4    


Welcome to the Christmas issue of Markets View.  It maybe rather contrary to the happy thoughts and wishes, which are traditional at this time of year, but this issue of Markets View looks at the fear so often associated with speaking in public.  By recognising why people are nervous of standing up and giving a presentation we can start to address those concerns and reduce their impact.  In fact, you can learn how to redirect the nervous energy produced, to improve your presentations.

In this issue, there is also a short snippet on what to do this New Year’s Eve and I continue my series of the A to Z of Effective Business Presentations.  This issue we are onto the letter " D" .

Feel the fear

Are you frightened by the prospect of having to stand up to speak to a room full of people?  Does you anxiety level rise when you are about to give a presentation? If so you are not alone.  Many people are frightened of public speaking.  A survey in the USA actually put public speaking ahead of death as the number one public fear.  This strikes me as rather odd, because taken to its logical conclusion it means that Americans would prefer to be in the coffin rather than giving the eulogy at a funeral.

Even so, it is undeniably true that many people are nervous about giving a presentation and this can often be detrimental to their performance.  To overcome this fear, we first need to understand what it is about giving a presentation that people find so terrifying.


Why worry?

People are by nature pack animals who prefer to remain as one of the group.  When we stand up to give a presentation, we are contradicting our natural behaviour.  Rather than staying with the pack, we are isolating ourselves.  By standing out front, the speaker is stating that he/she is different from the rest of the group.  Not only do we have to stand out in front of the pack we actually have to face them eye to eye.  Definitely a position of conflict! 

Having dared to be different, we then start to worry about our credentials.  Is my material good enough, can I present it properly, what will the audience think?  Then of course there are all the confidence sucking thoughts about what I look like, do I know what I’m talking about, can they see my knees shaking, will I be able to read my notes, will the slides work, have I put them in the right order, and so on and so on.

The main reasons for fear or nervousness are:

  • Isolation
  • Fear of performing badly
  • Fear of the audience and their reaction
  • Fear that your material is not good enough

How to overcome the fear of presenting

The first thing to remember is that people rarely look nervous.  People will not notice that your knuckles are turning white, or that your knees are shaking.  And even if they do, they will probably be sympathetic, remembering the last time they did a presentation.

The audience are just people, they have similar fears, doubts and inabilities as you.  There are various tricks, which you can use to remind yourself that the audience are just ordinary people.  Winston Churchill is reputed to have imagined that his audience were all in the nude.  Franklin Roosevelt used to imagine that every one of them had a hole in his sock.  Conjuring up these pictures in your mind is designed to make the audience feel more like ordinary people, who in fact they are.

The main way to overcome the fear that your performance will not be good enough or that your material is weak is through thorough preparation and practise.  After all, poor preparation produces perfectly pathetic presentations.  So think through the OSRAM components (Objective – Speaker – Room – Audience – Material ) and practise your presentation many times before you give it for real.  This will help give you the confidence to succeed.

One of the most comforting thoughts is that your audience want you to succeed.  From the very outset, they are on your side.  It is very rare to have an audience who does not want you to succeed, after all why would they be there.  Why waste their time listening to someone who does not have anything worth listening to.

Another comforting thought is that, more often than not, you are presenting because you know something that the audience do not.  They want to hear what you have to say.

When we are nervous, it is all to easy to forget to breath properly.  You stand up ready to present, start your opening sentence and find that you are out of breath before you finish it.  This starves your body of oxygen and increases the state of anxiety.  There is of course a simple cure, before you start to talk, take deep breaths using both your abdomen and chest to fill your lungs with lovely fresh invigorating air.  In the same way as athletes start deep breathing before they start running to maximise the amount of oxygen in their blood stream, you should adopt the same practice.  When you first stand up in front of your audience, smile, look around the room, take a few deep breaths and then start your presentation.  Do not rush in and do not wait until you are out of breath before you start to breath deeply.

Taking deep breaths is also one of the best ways of countering the fear, which is often associated with public speaking.  So if you are nervous beforehand, which is a perfectly normal, practise breathing deeply.  Place you hand on your abdomen and feel it go in and out with each breath, counting to five when you breathe in and again when you breathe out.

Luckily enough the way we act and speak when we are excited and enthusiastic is not dissimilar from the way we are affected by nervous energy. 

After all it is all energy and driven by adrenaline.  So rather then worrying about our nervousness XE "nervousness"  before a presentation, use that nervous energy to inject some enthusiasm into your presentation.  In this way, pre-presentation nerves can actually help us to be livelier and enthral the audience.

This New Year

The New Year is traditionally the time to make resolutions about how one will improve oneself over the coming year. If you haven’t already thought of a resolution, may I suggest resolving to be " a better presenter" .  Like any resolution this will take time and effort.  You may need to volunteer to give more presentations and set time aside to prepare for them, but I guarantee it will be effort that is well rewarded by your peers, colleagues and managers.  If you feel the need for a kick-start, book on to my presentation skills training course on 25th January.

Now that you have your New Year’s resolution sorted out, what are you doing to celebrate this New Year’s Eve?  If you are looking for somewhere to go to enjoy a big night out, or maybe somewhere to stay for a quite night in take a look at .  It is a website dedicated to listing the best places to go this New Years Eve.  Whether it is a cool nightclub, a country house hotel or just a local pub you should be able to find somewhere to celebrate the New Year, in a style of your choice.

A to Z of Effective Presentations

In this issue it is the turn for the " D" s, including: Dress and Doing It

D is for Dress

What you should wear when giving a presentation all depends on the nature of the presentation and the dress of the audience.

Given that you are your single biggest visual aid in getting your message across, it is important that you look good.

If you look out of place it will affect how well your message is taken.  Although many businesses have a dress down policy, if you are presenting to a business audience, it is usually advisably for a man to wear a suit and tie.  Shoes should be polished, as it is surprising how much is assumed about a business person, based on the state of their footwear.

If you are addressing a group of factory workers who are all dressed in overalls and you want to influence their behaviour, then a more casual appearance may be beneficial.  You will appear less like one of the managers and more like one of the team.  Every situation is different but there is never an excuse for not caring about your appearance.

In Britain, many men take the view that what they look like should not matter.  Looking different from others is just part of their eccentricity.  Being eccentric is fine being lazy is not.

If you feel good in the clothes that you are wearing, it will help to boost your confidence.


D is for Doing It

Confucius once said

I hear - I forget.

I see - I remember.

I do - I understand

And not surprisingly, he is right.  Have you ever noticed that if you drive to a new destination, somewhere you have never been before, the next time you go there you will remember the way.  But if you were taken there by someone else, the likelihood is that you could not find it again without resorting to the map.  The difference is that as the driver you actually did it, while as a passenger you literally just went along for the ride.

Are you good with people’s names?  A tip I learnt is, after you are introduced to someone, try and use their name in conversation, when you are talking to them and then again when you say goodbye.  It will help you to remember their name.  This is because you were using it, you did something with the name not just hearing it and forgetting it.

If you can, get your audience involved in the presentation, get them doing something, they will remember it far better and longer than if you just tell them about it.

This is why entertainers, particular in that great British tradition of pantomime, encourage the audience to shout and cheer.

Hands up who has come from xxxx?  Putting your hand in the air as you say this reinforces the action that you want the audience to copy and encourages them to put their hands up.

Try to think of ways you can get your audience to participate rather than just sitting there as passengers. For some audiences and some presentations, it is impractical to get them all under taking a physical activity.  However, you can always get the audience thinking, which is the next best thing to doing.  Use a rhetorical question – give them time to think about the answer.  Ask them a question and get a show of hands.  Get them to imagine a situation and think through how they would handle it.  In effect, they are doing it in their heads, which may not be quite as good as actually doing it but is far more memorable than just listening to it.

Thank you for reading this far

I hope you have found this issue of Markets View interesting and informative.  Don’t forget to check out my new website at there are free presentation tips and tricks to download, my ebook " The A to Z of Effective Business Presentations" and an Excel workbook that will reveal your favourite influencing styles.

Don't forget about the new tele-conferencing service. Put 0871 230 8892 in your mobile phone today, you never know when you might need it.

If you know someone who could benefit from training or coaching in presentation skills, please pass on my contact details.

I hope you have found this issue of Markets View interesting and informative.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.

Software Marketing

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