It's pretty wide known that speaking in public is our number one fear. To put it in a little perspective, on one famous list of fears, death was ranked number seven. So I guess people would rather die than give a speech! But it's worth getting a grip on that fear. Because presentations are a chance for exposure. You can enhance your credibility, your reputation and your success every time you speak. There are lots of ways to minimize and manage this phobia. But let's cover here what you can do before you speak, so right out of the gate, you can feel much more confident and at ease.
Here are six Phobia Prevention Principles that I've captured with "P" words:
1. Prepare It's extremely risky to believe that you can show up for your talk and just wing it. It goes without saying that you need to know your subject. And of course, you should know your audience. Preparation also means planning and organizing your talk. Develop it in a concise, bullet-point outline form so you can easily refer to it to keep your train of thought without reading it verbatim. If you think you can just talk off the cuff and do no preparation, you have increased the odds that you'll lose your train of thought, draw a blank, or ramble aimlessly, all anxiety-ridden experiences.
2. Plan to use Props or Visuals This tip may have you scratching your head. But this is a powerful concept: purposeful movement. I believe this is one of the secrets of being a spelling speaker. When all your movement is purposeful, it gives you more power. Using a prop or visual is a great form of purposeful movement. It gives you something to do with your hands, something to focus on. This in turn can diminish the helplessness that often comes with anxiety. Since you're usually the most nervous at the beginning of a talk, starting with a prop or visual will give you more of a sense of control and purpose.
3. Be (more than) Punctual Arriving just in the nick of time for your presentation means you're going to be harried and distracted. Ideally, arrive early enough to give yourself plenty of time to set up, get focused, and learn the lay of the land. Get a feel for the room arrangement, where you'll be standing, where the screen is, how the equipment works. Do not be afraid to rearrange some chairs, the lighter or the screen to make it easier for you. A little reconnaissance can go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable.
4. Polyester-proof Yourself This may sound crazy, but your clothing is cruel. If you know that you tend to get flushed and hot when you're nervous, do not wear heavy or tight-fitting garments. Make sure you wear clothing that breaths. Polyesters and other man-made fabrics do not breathe and will make you sweat all the more. Choose natural fabrics-cotton, wool, silk, linen-for optimum breathing ability. Ladies, if your fair complexion tends to blush when you're nervous, especially on the neck and upper chest area, avoid scooped neck blouses. High collars or turtlenecks do a good job of camouflaging one of the most flush-sensitive parts of the body.
5. Practice Makes Perfect Rehearse out loud in front of your mirror or a video camera or another person. Reading it to yourself does not count. The more you deliver it out loud, hearing and feeling the words roll off your tongue, the more familiar you'll be with it and the more comfortable you'll be when it's time to give it.
6. Picture Your Success Visualize yourself giving a dynamic, well-received presentation. Just as expecting the worst can be self-fulfilling, so can anticipating success. When you rehearse your presentation, visualize yourself appearing calm, cool and collected while giving an outstanding, well-received presentation-and it will be more likely to actually happen that way. As good ole Ben Franklin's timeless wisdom states, "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."
So put the Ps into practice for a potent presentation that gives you power over the panic.