It's hard to believe that speaking before an audience is more frightful than hearing, but reports indicate people consistently rank public speaking as their # 1 fear.
One reason presenting in public is frightening is that we feel exposed on a platform in front of a crowd. We worry that we'll do something stupid to embarrass ourselves or to sabotage our practitioners. After all, we've seen other people stand before a crowd and do stupid things.
Fortunately, we can learn from the mistakes of others, and we can avoid them. This article describes mistakes I've seen people make to sabotage their own success. I share these examples with you so you do not make the same mistakes. You can set your fear besides today!
Make Negative Jokes about Your Competence
A consultant was asked to address a group for a potential client. The consultant had 30 minutes to say something useful and make an impression in order to be asked back for a fee. Following the introduction, audience members clapped.
The speaker responded to the applause with this statement, "It's nice to receive applause before you start a presentation-because you never know what will happen afterwards." Good grief, what was he thinking ?!
Audience members form an opinion of a speaker in the first seconds of a presentation. This speaker used those precious first seconds to say he might lose control of the speech. Who would want to listen to him, let alone hire him ?!
Self-deprecating humor is fine, and sometimes it's desirable-but but NOT as you introduce your speech and NOT about your competency. As you begin a speech, strive to grab the audience's attention, establish a connection with them, and show you are qualified to address the topic.
Tell the Entire Story-Except How It Applies to the Audience
An accomplished physician and medical researcher told me about a presentation she had recently made. "I gave too much background and had to rush when explaining the clinical implications." "Who was the audience?" I asked. The answer: "It was a conference for clinicians."
It's natural for a researcher, sales person or executive to structure a presentation chronologically. It's natural to expect the background information to lend weight to the finale-the conclusion or recommendation. It's natural, that is, if you're thinking from a speaker's perspective.
From an audience member's perspective, this "natural" approach can be a boring put-off. Chances are you've had the experience-as an audience member-of feeling your eyes glaze over when presenter droned on about background or technical details that were entirely irrelevant to you.
Audience members come for the finale. They are interested in background details only to the point that the details clarify or support the recommendation or results. Limit background to information audience members must know to understand how the material applies to them.
Start with the finale-even give the punch line-and you'll grab the audience's attention and provide a framework to put the details that follow into perspective. Provide a web link for those interested in more detail.
Try to Cram Two Pounds of Material into a One-Pound Time Slot
When you try to cram 60 minutes of material in a 20 minute time slot, you've made a stupid mistake. In presentations, a simple equation applications: less content equals more power.
This is not to say that the quality of your content does not count or that privileged equals successful. It does mean the following:
* Audience members are more likely to retain one well-developed point than five points that you rush through.
* Rush speed is exhausting for the speaker and overwhelming for the audience. When you deliver an appropriate amount of material for your time slot, you'll have time for dramatic puses and other delivery techniques that increase audience interest and retention.
* When you try to cram 60 minutes into a 20 minute time slot, it often means you have not done your homework. You have not thought about what your audience needs to hear as opposed to what you'd like to say. Cramming is a mistake of the lazy speaker-don't do it!