“I am moving into a new position that requires me to make presentations. I am very uncomfortable speaking in front of groups; do you have some suggestions to help me?”
Fear comes from uncertainty, not knowing what is going to happen next. Your fear of speaking in front of others is very common and is driven usually by the lack of experience.
I have some suggestions for you:
Know the purpose of the talk: Why are you speaking? How many people will be there, how much time you have, what will the room look like, and what materials or technology do you need for the talk?
Know your topic: Be totally confident about the subject you are presenting. Have backup details close by in case you need more details that are not in your presentation (e.g. facts, statistics, pictures, quotes, etc.).
Know yourself: Try to relax, breathing deeply can help. The audience doesn’t know you’re nervous unless you let them see you that way. One common clue of nervousness is talking too fast or not making eye contact with your participants.
Know how you look and sound: To be good at anything requires PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE; spend time in front of a mirror or with trusted family and friends practicing your entire presentation. Rehearse it until you are comfortable with how you look, sound and feel about your talk.
Know the audience: Learn as much about the participants in your presentation as possible. What are they looking for from the presentation? What do you want the audience to take away from the talk?
Engage your audience: The more you ask the audience questions, encourage short periods of dialog or interaction, the more comfortable you will feel during your talk. Caution: keep control of this interaction so that it does not consume the time you have to complete your talk.
As your career expands, you may be asked or desire to do more public speaking. I recommend you look into organizations, classes or publications that focus on increasing public speaking skills. I was a member of Toastmasters for many years and highly recommend this organization. Also, you may consider finding a mentor that can help you move your speaking skills forward in a one-on-one way.
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