I received an email from a soon-to-be US KPMG director. They candidly told me that their biggest weakness, and one which would stop them taking their next step up to director, was their fear of public speaking. With so many firms requiring their potential senior managers, directors and partners to present to a panel, overcoming any fear of public speaking is a must.
How to overcome your fear of public speaking
Here are the four tips I gave, based on my experience of becoming a full member of the Professional Speaking Association UK & Ireland.
1. Conquer the small talk
We all have a little voice on our shoulder talking to us at all times. Next time you have to present, listen to what that voice is saying to you. If it is hindering (which in your case it sounds like), how can you turn that around into something more helpful?
2. Lay down some good memories of you speaking and presenting
Very normally anyone who has a fear of public speaking often has had a bad experience of speaking in front of people in the past. The best way to vanquish the fear of public speaking is to have some good memories of you on the stage speaking to remember. This means you have to go out and present! Here are some great tips and techniques to help you lay down some good memories of you presenting:
- Ditch the slides – that way you can’t use these as a crutch and it will force you to get completely immersed in your materials and really know your subject
- Practice the first and last five minutes of your presentation audibly at least ten times. This will help fix the start and the end of the presentation in your mind so that you can always start and finish confidently without waffling.
- Build your presentation around a series of stories. Even if you are presenting on a new piece of tax legislation, use a client story to illustrate it’s impact. Stories are easier to remember, and more engaging for the audience.
3. Leave time to prepare and rehearse
We often don’t spend long enough prepping and rehearsing when we need to give a presentation. Consequently our nerves can take over, and we struggle to make the impact we would like. This then feeds the ‘I struggle to present’ story in our heads and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
4. Work with a presentation skills coach
If you can do, get some time in with a presentation skills coach locally to you. They could really help you build your confidence and help yourself ‘overcome’ yourself. We recommend Lee Jackson author of Powerpoint surgery There are tons of articles on this blog which will help you overcome your nerves and fear of presenting, for example:
- how to ace your presentation to the partnership selection panel
- how to ace your presentation regardless of who is in the audience
- 5 ways to truly present like the pros
- 11 speaking tips from the pros when it really matters
What are your tips for beating nerves before a presentation?