Presentation Skills – Overcoming Glossophobia

Speaking in front of your colleagues, peers or customers can be a daunting prospect that can create a degree of anxiety in even the most Business presentationconfident person. This anxiety of public speaking is so common that the psychologists even have a name for it – Glossophobia. Yet this fear can be overcome allowing you to make powerful presentations.

When standing up in front of an audience all speakers want to know that the people they are speaking to will be engaged and not too difficult. Yet, getting the audience involved and on our side can be very challenging and it is this challenge that often creates anxiety and makes us want to avoid presenting.

So before you stand up in front of an audience to deliver a presentation you must manage your anxiety so that you will appear calm and confident at the start of your presentation. During the presentation you need to learn how to facilitate any audience participation while it is happening, such as how you ask for - and then answer – questions from the audience but we will look at this aspect in part 2. For now let us look at controlling those initial nerves...

All speakers want their audience to like them. it is a very strong human need. The best way to create a collaborative environment with your audience, so that they are “on your side” is to first reduce any speaking anxiety you have. Nervous speakers make their audience nervous too!

There are a number of techniques you can use to reduce your nervousness, the first involves reframing in your mind the physical, emotional, and mental anxiety you experience prior to speaking as being not unusual but typical and perfectly natural. Your fear is a bully and when faced openly, it will fade away.

Avoid giving these natural responses to presenting any special significance. Or, even better, you can positively embrace these reactions by saying to yourself: “Here are those nervous feelings again. It makes sense that I feel this way; I am about to speak in front of other people.” This type of personal acknowledgement is an empowering acceptance that reduces your anxiety, rather than allowing it to make you feel even more stressed.

You can use visualisation to imagine yourself overcoming your fears. Think about the worst that could happen then picture yourself overcoming this with ease and composure. Look at the audience as your friend and visualise them enjoying your presentation.

Another technique you can use involves seeing your presentation as a conversation rather than a performance. When we perform we place a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves “to get it right.” But when we have a simple conversation we don’t experience the same pressure so this feels less stressful.

Another technique focuses on the relationship you picture yourself having with your audience. You will likely start preparing your presentation by thinking about what you need to tell the audience, and then develop your presentation to deliver your thoughts and ideas. A better, and a more thorough approach, to presenting is to begin by asking a question: “What does my audience want to hear?” By adopting an audience-focused approach to preparing your presentation you not only engage your audience and get them “on your side” quicker as you’re focused on giving them what they need, but you will also take the spotlight – and so the stress – off of yourself too.

In part two of this blog on presentation skills we will look at how we can better manage our fears of the question and answer session of the presentation.