Presentation Skills – Overcoming Glossophobia Part 2

Glossophobia is the psychologists name for the common fear people have about standing up in front of an audience of their peers, colleaguespresenting to colleagues or customers. In part one of this blog we looked at managing our fears before the presentation begins. Now we will look at managing our fears during the presentation.

Once you have your pre-presentation fears managed, you need to keep your audience engaged throughout your presentation. Whilst there are many activities that can keep an audience engaged, the most common one is the question and answer session. But a Q&A session can create more nerves in the speaker – how will you manage it? How should you respond to difficult questions?. Fear of the unknown can make you very anxious.

So let’s start by looking at what makes an effective Q&A session.

The first thing you need to decide is when you are going to take questions from your audience. If you are a nervous public speaker, my advice is to tell your audience that you will take any questions at the end of your presentation. This allows you to stay focused on the task at hand – first presenting and then answering questions – without the worry of having to constantly switch back and forth.

However, if you are presenting information that is very complex you should consider taking questions at designated times throughout your presentation. Again, tell you audience when these times will be so you can still concentrate on either presenting or answering questions.
When you do ask your audience if they have “any questions?” you will want to do this in a way that maintains your control, credibility and authority whilst appearing open and responsive. This can be tricky but will be made easier by the way in which you actually ask your audience for their questions.

All too often, presenters open a question and answer session by asking “Do you have any questions?” Such broad invitations make it difficult for the audience members to come up with focused and concrete questions. And as a result, these become harder (and more stressful) for you to try to answer.

Instead of using this broad approach, try setting parameters and asking for the exact type of questions that you want to (and have prepared in advance) to answer. For example, “I’d like to spend 5 minutes answering any questions you have about the solution that I have just proposed” This more restrictive invitation establishes you as being in control, helps your audience know what type of questions to ask and so leads to questions that you know you can answer.

Whilst you may be anxious about the Q&A session, it’s important to recognise that often your audience is just as anxious. It can be hard for them to speak up and ask a question that might make them appear stupid in front of others. It is often helpful to remind yourself of this!

When answering a question, always start your answer by paraphrasing the question that has been asked. This buys you thinking time and ensures that you are actually ansering the question asked.

Do remember to address your answer to the whole group – not just the person who asked you the question.
Another good technique is to link the question just asked to what you have previously said and/or questions that other audience members have already asked. Linking ideas and concepts in this way helps your audience stay on topic.

Taking a course so that you can practice these presentation skills techniques and hone your skills will help you to confidently and professionally present to any audience.