Kill the Fear of Public Speaking

Palms get sweaty. Stomach turns into knots. Voice chokes. Heart starts racing. All this chaos happens in the little time we travel from our respective seats to the podium!! If given a chance, we generally avoid public speaking. There is an enormous fear of public speaking, as the idea of speaking in front of a large audience scares the day lights out of us! Are we alone in our quests for confidence or are there examples in history, old and new that we can derive inspiration from?

Did you know that the Fuhrer was known for offering a weak handshake with “moist and clammy” palms and was awkward at making small talk? Yes we are talking about Hitler! Yet he led a whole nation to war, under his commanding voice. The awkward young man became the confident Nazi leader with constant effort, by working through sleepless nights to overcome shyness and doubt; by editing his speeches and rehearsing them over & over again.

The interesting fact about Winston Churchill is everyone thought that he was a gifted orator but he wasn’t, all he did was immense preparation. He wasn’t a natural speaker. Similarly across the Atlantic, the former US president John F. Kennedy is still remembered & admired 50 years later after his death only because of his famous inaugural address. Like other great orators- including Winston Churchill before him & Barack Obama since then- he was someone who took word-craft very seriously.

Demosthenes was an expert orator who lived in Athens (Greece) from 384 B.C to 322 B.C. When he was young, he designed a series of exercises to help him with his oratory skills. He practiced talking with a mouth full of pebbles, to overcome stammering. He also practiced reciting while running uphill and speaking in the roar of the ocean waves to improve his voice projection.

Speakers like the ones mentioned above and others such as Steve Jobs, Shashi Tharoor, Narendra Modi etc are not gifted by birth, but gifted by practice. Below we discuss the ideal steps to follow, in becoming a badass speaker on any platform!!

Understand your fear

Start with journalling your thought process in a book or a diary and try to understand why are you scared of public speaking? After rationalizing your fear by writing it down, find ways of calming yourselves down that work every time. For eg: Drinking half a glass of water, listening to a particular song, talking to some particular person etc. Watch videos of good public speakers from time to time to understand how fears are overcome and masses pleased while speaking.

Have a great script

A successful public speaker needs good content to capture the attention of his audience. You should choose a preferred structure and follow it every time thereafter to bring consistency any reduce any self-anxiety. One more key point to remember is, your content should be more EQ (emotional quotient) focussed and less IQ (Intelligent Quotient) focussed as audiences are always intrigued by intellect but moved and won over by powerful emotion.  Below, we present an example of an ideal speech layout:

Introduction- Precise and interesting speech introduction to garner the attention and create anticipation

Main topic 1– Introduction and explanation of the primary (main) topic.

Elaboration 1– Extend the topic with further depth analysis
Example 1- Use some personal/common anecdotes to give the speech a unique edge.

Main topic 2– Introduction & brief explanation of secondary topic

Elaboration 2- Extend the topic further by adding humour, information or topic related banter (addition of humour or banter to keep people interested during a long speech)

Example 2- Use some personal/common anecdotes to keep the speech interesting

Compile Together – Explain a small tertiary topic (If any). Then compile the information from the above main topics to create a concise end paragraph. This paragraph should include the key actionable, the key take away points and personal experiences derived from the topics

Conclusion- End with as much emotional and personal touch as you can, but always keep it concise

Audiences expect two things from a speaker: A path and a destination. They want to know where you’re going and why. As you write and revise, focus on structuring and simplifying. In addition to that, to prepare yourself for impromptu talks on random topics, try this exercise- Anytime you see a picture, try describing it. Next time, describe it with a little more detail, then the next time try building a story around it. Try this exercise a couple of times and we guarantee, it will work wonders for your oratory skills.

Voice

The greatest tool of a speaker is his voice; it is the voice which moves a nation to tears and a population to revolt. Below we present some points to help you with your voice:

  • Learn and adopt any simple breathing exercise form YouTube

  • Learn the ideal way of pronouncing words and the ideal amount of open mouth, teeth, tongue and nasal quality required in mouthing words

  • Learn how to position yourself properly distant or close to the mike depending on what you are conveying

  • Learn how and when to take pauses while speaking to give the audience time to think and ponder on what was said before and what will come after

  • Reading newspaper or a book aloud (for 15 to 20 minutes daily) also helps in improving voice modulation

Take the leap

All said and done, be ready to take the leap whenever called upon or by self-initiative; be it debates, jam presentations, talks or symposiums. Try to attract people with your views and opinions, respond positively, accept and analyse the audience feedback. Feedback (negative or positive) is vital for progress. For as they say, Practice will make a man perfect, but (studying) feedback and acting upon it might even make the man famous!!

Written By: Srijaa Datta

Edited By: Arnab Chakraborty

Present Better With These Easy Tips

Are you constantly trying to improve your presentation but have failed to do so?

 

Are you fed up of losing your audience at the first moment?

Its okay, we have all been there. Not to worry, Inkppt to the rescue 😉

 

Just keep reading and we will illustrate some very easy ways to hone your presentation skills and make them mind blowing.

 

We generally have a massive fear of presenting in front of an audience, but with proper guidance and practice, this fear can be annihilated. So get ready for an awesome sauce “future you” with these handy tips:

 

Appearance

 

Appearance is extremely important when it comes to presentation. Visual aesthetics are vital to grab sustained attention. Think of it like: a Red Ferrari, a white Boeing Jet, a shiny silver Tissot watch, the appearance is the first thing that will grab eyeballs. Some tips for visual aesthetics:

 

  • Always Choose fonts based on the industry domain, for example: curve inspired ones for women accessory and bold lines for technology etc.

  • Always remember to use pastel and regular shades of colour that will not pinch the eyes on a bigger screen, for example: avoid bright yellow, fluorescent greens etc.

  • Avoid content clutter at all costs

  • Concise information with bullet points whenever possible

  • Use pie charts, bar graphs, diagrams wherever possible to reduce content and grab attention

 

Delivering the speech

 

Okay, here comes the tough part. Don’t sweat; you’re going to ace this too! To keep the audience interested, the first thing you need to sharpen is your wit. The foremost quality that a good presenter possesses is, he/she knows how to imbibe this wit in the information being presented. Here are some tips for becoming the next Steve Jobs:

 

  • Structure your speech into parts containing equal parts humour, sarcasm, information and serious confrontations with the audience to engage them

  • Never cram the content, improvise

  • Never read from your slides. Seriously a big No No!! You could alternatively point at a slide (say “as you can see….”) and continue

  • Sprinkle your words with metaphors, stories & examples to make your presence lively

  • Deliver everything with passion

  • Stand in front of the mirror and talk to yourself, notice how you smile, frown, show disagreement, acceptance. Weed out the expressions you believe are too loud and bold for an audience

  • Make crisp notes about the content in your slides, anticipate the questions that may come your way and write them down. That way you will never be caught off guard

  • Study the videos of seasoned orators like Mr Modi, Neil Grasse Tyson, Barack Obama etc. from YouTube

 

Voice projection

 

Another important part in presentation delivery that is highly neglected. Just picture this:

You’re attending a seminar and the presenter is speaking in a very dull & flat mono tone about a very interesting topic. Interestingly, you’ll fall asleep even before realizing the topic is interesting; )

Do you want that to happen to yourself too?  Noooooo way!!!!!

Some tips for getting that perfect voice throw to hypnotize the audience:

 

  • Understand the basics of voice projection. It neither means yelling neither using a deep baritone always, it simply means using your voice to guide viewer’s attention to your words

  • Avoid using flat monotone, modulate your voice to match the mood and environment

  • Keep a check on your pitch consistency while speaking, it should never be too high, if need arises it should be taken low (People trust and admire deep voices more. Think Amitabh Bachchan)

  • Watch videos at TED to access and analyse a library of celebrated speakers talking about everything under the Sun

  • Consider joining Toast Master; a great speech club for getting ample of practice and training.

  • Always remember, its not what you speak but how you speak that matters

  • Take a sip of water and hum a song before going on stage to keep your voice fresh , smooth and to prevent it from cracking

 

Content

 

Content is king! If you want to be a great presenter you will have to sound like an expert in chosen particular field. It’s very essential to have a good content otherwise all the above steps will fail. Good speakers always try to keep a perfect balance between content and structure throughout the presentation. Always try to deliver a succinct & clear vision of your chosen topic and make it easy for audience to follow. Keep these tips in mind:

 

  • To the point information

  • Accurate data and graphs

  • Less readable more visual appeal

  • Just introduce the topics through written content, talk about them in detail

  • Keep the content flow systematic and structure consistent so that the audience get comfortable with the template and know what to expect in the next slide

 

Q & A

 

Lastly, here comes the Question Answer round, so if there’s a Q&A at the end of the presentation, and you are bombarded with questions, just relax. You have won the war already if people are interested enough to ask you questions. Follow these tips to ace this final frontier:

 

  • Repeat the question after hearing it in full or possibly rephrase the question in full as your opening statement in the reply

  • Take a moment in examining the question even if you have understood it already before answering, to allow the atmosphere to build up and to avoid incorrect interpretation

  • Politely apologize if you do not know the answer to the question ( people appreciate honesty on stage 😉 )

  • Always start answering by looking the concerned person in the eye and then looking at the whole audience to bring them all into the answer

Follow the tips presented above and you will successively improve in your presentation skills with each new presentation. These tips will train you to become a charismatic presenter and a killer orator. The words carried by the slides will impress the intellect the words carried by your voice will impress the heart.

 

Conceptualized and Written by: Srijaa Datta

Edited by: Arnab Chakraborty