…And some thoughts on the return of investment.

Here to discover the secret about how to get away with the fear of public speaking? Well, sorry to break it for you but there is no secret. It's simply about being aware of the fact that having a presentation in front of an audience is not about you. Quit searching for the miraculous 10 steps to how to become a better speaker and start working on your content. Now that we canceled the fantasy let’s get to some more serious matters.

People talk a lot about being scared of speaking in front of an audience, and this is real. Most of the time this fear comes from the lack of positive experience, fear of being the center of attention, the feeling of isolation, the idea of being judged by the audience, or simply the classic fear of failure we all want to avoid. Well, as a side note on this one, no significant transformation was ever made out of coziness and comfort, so be ready to let go of some of this fear if you want to grow, accept also the possibility of failure since… is pretty possible.

Truth is nothing is more powerful than the feeling or the certainty that you haven’t prepared enough. The feeling of not being prepared might also be known at a more large scale as the Impostor Syndrome, we are not going to discuss this now as I don’t have the preparation to give a professional overview. On the other side, you might say that the certainty of not being prepared enough can be questionable, as in, how can I be sure that I am prepared enough? The bad news is that you can’t, the good news is that you can control how you react to that. No matter what subject you choose there is a possibility that someone, somewhere on the globe knows a little bit more than you do about it, or just has a different perspective. That’s natural, our brain works in such a way, and this is how evolution works. So chill. It would be a very boring existence to have everyone agree with us all the time. The thing that you have to understand though is that what makes your presentation unique is in very few cases the subject itself but more the way the subject is organized and wrapped with your research and personal experience. That is what makes an effective presentation. That is something that no one can deny or take away from you. So next time you know you did amazing research, worked hard on your presentation, but still feel the fear just think about this.

What is exactly an effective presentation anyway?

You remember that session you attended at some point that kept your attention and gave you the feeling of changing something on the matter or use that information further? That was an effective presentation, that piece of content wrapped in a way that gets the audience’s attention of the mind eventually producing the desired results: give some information, explain a topic, pitch an idea, or motivate.

How do I start working on an effective presentation? First, let yourself guided by the answers to the following questions:

  1. What do I really like and know very well? It is pointless to say that you should avoid presenting about subjects you don’t find interesting or you know little about. Talk about things that make you curious, that worked for you, that you successfully do- that special thing that brings some passion and excitement in your life. ( There are also situations when you have to talk about things that don’t really excite you, try a little harder to find the fun part on that subject also.)
  2. What do I mostly want the audience to remember about me? The answer to this question represents the flavor of your presentation. Do I want them to see me as a serious speaker or a funny one? Btw, don't play the funny speaker card if you are not a funny person in your day-to-day life. You want an effective presentation and to release anxiety not to create a cringe moment and increase tension. Just be yourself, let them know you, share if you are a little scared, be a little weird, admit if you did a mistake, let it go, move on.
  3. In what ways I want my presentation to change my audience? This is an important one. Be honest. Do I want to change some information that they have now? Do I want to improve their knowledge? Do I want to make a call to action? Or maybe, change some beliefs? Just choose, but don't forget to take into consideration your delivery style.

Once you get the answers to these questions your presentation starts to gain a bit of sense. But only “sense” is not enough, you also need shape and emotions. For this part, by experiencing, I came to realize how important it is to take a look at these points:

  1. Tell the truth. Your audience is not stupid, speak the truth. Even though you might want to exaggerate to increase the effect of the story, let that for the moment you become a bit more experienced. If you are a beginner that still tries to gain control over your own emotions in public, just stick to the authentic side of the story.
  2. Add a story or two. Since we were talking about the real side of the story here’s the truth: we all love stories, we grew up with them, and we enjoy the idea that the person that is in front of us is sharing more than just a set of points about a subject, is sharing an experience. Sharing personal experiences, how you experimented with the details you are giving draws you closer to the ones standing in front of you.
  3. Add some visual anchors to your story. Use graphics that complement and compliment your presentation flow, but don’t let the visuals make the point of it. You, as the speaker, should make the point of your presentation, visuals should just give some flavor, entertain the brain. (We are visual beings, we secretly and weirdly like memes in your presentation. wink wink).

If you keep it all balanced and don’t exaggerate with any of the many pieces of advice on the internet on how to deliver you should be just fine. You will also be just fine if you don’t respect all the rules, so no worries, enjoy yourself, learn in the process.

And since we were talking about sharing experiences and enjoying yourself, what I love most about all this public speaking thing stands on three pillars:

* The preparation process- the research on giving high-quality information and sometimes even going beyond your hands-on expertise gives you amazing levels of satisfaction. On one side you grow, inevitable, on the other side you feel proud your presentation will give such valuable content.

*The delivery- the energy that I get from being in that moment is unique, I can’t really put it into words more than this.

*The feeling I get every time everything ends- it’s awesome. While dealing for a long time with a perfectionist side I came to this understanding- we have 3 presentations in one: the presentation that we want to deliver, the presentation we actually deliver, and the presentation we think we should have had delivered. They are different, and that is ok, enjoy the unexpected, go with the energy you get from the room, and avoid getting stuck on the exact plan you made, have fun a bit, learn from your mistakes, you’ll know better next. Right now, enjoy your achievement.

I’ve seen amazing and charismatic presenters with little to no valuable content, I appreciated the entertainment side of the presentation, but that was it. On the other side, I had the chance to get some awesome insights from speakers that were not following any strict rules of public speaking but more like just wanted to share some content, they were more concerned with being the right speaker with the best content for their audience than being the best speaker. Be yourself, enjoy the butterflies you get before entering the stage, and the chill vibe after everything ended. Tap yourself on the shoulder and understand that once you get that satisfying feeling you will become addicted to it. I mean it.

Remember what I said in the beginning? That having a presentation in front of an audience is not about you, well maybe I was a little mean, you actually get something, a great and satisfying feeling in the end, and this kind of feeling is only achieved by focusing your attention, content, and energy towards your audience's needs. Have fun!