3 ways to beat public speaking or presentation panic


By Cate Schreck - Service Excellence Coach

For those of you that have joined the Geelong - Give Where You Live Foundation's Loaned Executive program for 2016, I'm delighted to announce that I will be there to help you become calm and confident presenters. Since 1966, the Loaned Executives team have played a pivotal role in the success of the Give Where You Live Foundation’s fundraising program. Volunteering their time over an 8 week period, the Loaned Executives visit workplaces and discuss with staff the Foundation’s Workplace Giving Program. That's where I come in - helping the volunteers to design and deliver confident and inspirational presentations.

I remember the first time in my career that I had to give a presentation to strangers. I was working for one of the big four banks and I was asked to speak to 85 Senior Citizens about the new and exciting telephone banking service. The talk was to go for 20 minutes. I had to stand on a stage, at a lectern and speak into a fixed microphone. No Power Point. Just me and my words. My shaky shaky words and my shaky shaky hands. That 20 minutes felt like 20 hours.

If it sit quietly long enough, I can conjure up the exact same physical feeling from that day. It starts in my stomach like a small tightly clenched pulsating fist and it spreads then to my chest so I start shallow breathing and ends with a nice little burst of nausea. That's not very nice is it? But, I can also conjure up the feeling when the presentation was over and it was good. Really good. I was pumped.

Today, I present information to strangers for a living. I am the Director and Founder of Lightbulb Training Solutions and I regularly present to groups of all sizes. So, how did I go from being a paranoid and shaky presenter to now actively seeking to speak to audiences of up to 300 people?

  1. Plan. Every presentation I give and every training program I deliver, starts with me sitting down and getting clear on what the audience needs to know. I create a list of the key points I want to cover and then fill it out with meaningful content. This is the time when you may need to seek input from others who can confirm if the content matches the audience. Workplace presentations are rarely about you personally, you are the vessel that is conveying information - make the content relevant and easy to understand and the audience will thank you.
  2. Practise. Stand in front of the mirror and deliver your presentation at least 3 times. Record it on your phone and listen to how you sound. Then try it out on the dog, the cat and all of your family or friends but trust me when I say, if you skip this step because you worry about looking or sounding silly, you are also skipping the opportunity to get better and better. The more you practice the more relaxed you will appear on the day.
  3. Do It and Do It Again. If you've never presented before then everything you think will or won't happen is just that - only a thought. Give yourself a break and just do it so you can stop imagining every possible worst case scenario. If you have presented before and want to improve, then keep presenting and you will improve. Henry Ford's quote comes to mind "Whether you think you can, or think you can't - you're right".

I still take 3 very deep tummy expanding breaths before presenting and I still have some sleepless nights, but that's more about excitement than nerves. I have also had some really funny, awkward and totally surprising things happen during my presentations but I'm saving those stories for this years Loaned Executives.

If you want to conquer your fear of presenting, give back to your community and learn more about the Give Where You Live Foundation then consider becoming a Loaned Executive. Click here for more details.

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