I’d like to be able to tell you something comforting— “It’s going to be fine!” or “You’ll do great if you just believe in yourself!” I wish I could tell you to just chat positive affirmations or picture your audience naked or visualize a standing ovation. The problem is that none of those things will prevent you from giving a lousy presentation, so they shouldn’t help ease your anxiety either.
The reality is that you have good reason to be nervous. You are probably nervous because at some point in your life, you’ve given a lousy presentation. And I’m sure you’ve attended a lot of lousy presentations. So, you know that chances are you’re going to bomb. Okay, okay, that may have been a little harsh. But I didn’t say it to be mean-spirited or to ruin your confidence. The fact is that most speakers bore their audiences.
Visualizing your audience without any clothing on might actually make you more nervous.
Most speakers communicate absolutely nothing (and by communicate, I mean give the audience something to remember). So, at the risk of freaking you out, I really think that you and most presenters should be MORE nervous, not less nervous, when you speak.
But I also recognize that being excessively nervous can really ruin your shot at giving a great presentation. I’m going to help you deal with it on a deeper level and in an audience-oriented way. In fact, that’s what this book is designed to do. What, then, is the secret to getting over your fear of public speaking?
Preparation, preparation, preparation—always with your audience in mind.
• First, create an interesting presentation designed to give your audience what they want and need.
• Second, understand what your audience is seeing by recording yourself giving the presentation, watch- ing it, adjusting your delivery or content, and then recording it again.
• Third, get feedback from real people by giving the presentation to a few willing colleagues and ask- ing them specific questions about your content and delivery.
• Fourth, prepare for your specific audience by asking them questions before you start.
• Fifth, prepare for your next presentation by asking your audience how you did.
While I do want you to take every speaking opportunity very seriously—and prepare accordingly—I don’t want you to feel fear. I want you to look at every presentation as a chance to learn to have fun, and the surest way to make that happen is to feel secure in your readiness.
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