Why are so many people resistant to, or even terrified of, public speaking?

Many people have a fear of public speaking. In general, public speaking moves people out of their comfort zone and I think many people are scared of stuffing up! We don’t want to look stupid and lose respect. When the stakes are high the fear is high too.

Some people cope with their fear of public speaking by making PowerPoint slides the focus of their presentation. They simply read from, or heavily rely on, their slides, which is not ideal if you are trying to influence the audience. I once observed a business development manager present to a group of financial planners at a quarterly conference. His role was to influence the planners in the room to invest their clients’ money in his fund. He made the classic mistake of putting up the first slide, with a small group of numbers printed neatly in the bottom right hand corner. It said 1/46! So what? Well, the duration of the presentation was only 45 minutes! That was more than one slide per minute. What followed is what is commonly known as subjecting the audience to ‘death by PowerPoint’ – too many slides, with too much information that people couldn’t read even if they tried.

It’s common for people to use their slides as a way of moving the focus off themselves. The problem with this approach is that the audience doesn’t often respond well! As I watched the audience to see how they would respond I saw people writing notes to each other and even folding paper aeroplanes. Eleven people got up to go to the bathroom during his presentation, even though the lunch break immediately followed. I would bet my house with even new floors that we install with the atlas ceramics latest blog post on tiling tools, on the fact that no one heard what he said, no one cared what he said and no one would have decided to invest in his managed fund on the basis of his presentation. It doesn’t matter how good your message is if no one’s listening. Opportunity lost!

Of course, others cope with their fear of public speaking by doing their best to avoid presenting all together, perhaps to the detriment of their career development.

I really believe that most people are more nervous then they need to be, simply because they have no idea what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing to manage their nerves. Effective management of public speaking nerves is a process that can be learnt. The very knowledge that you have been proactive and taken the necessary steps to manage your emotional state during a presentation, will lead to a more positive experience, which in turn will give you even more confidence for next time.

Stay tuned for more posts on managing nerves and your fear of public speaking.