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  #1  
Old 22nd October 2008, 18:58
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious


Hello everyone.

As Im sure most of you are acutely aware, public speaking ranks as one of the most feared situations by most non-SA people. Not great white sharks, not car crashes, not killer aliens, but talking in front of an audience of fellow humans. And thats the general feeling amongst people who are normally very comfortable, even at their happiest, in social situations. So for us lot, it is often doubly-terrifying.






This guide I have written has three aims:
  • To document how and why I attempted (and I believe succeeded) in overcoming my intense fear of public speaking.
  • To discuss how the knowledge I gained can be applied to other people in similar situations
  • To serve as a hub for sharing pre/post and during-presentation tips. The tips are sourced from my own ideas, books and websites I have read, presentation training I have been given at work, and the various members of SA UK!
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Before I start, I think it would be useful to explain the philosophy behind the way I share advice in this post. I am by no means a mental health professional and do not claim as such. What I am aiming to do is offer my story, how I improved my skills and how this could be applied to others. It is often directly applicable practical advice. I make no attempt to address the root cause of the fear involved. For some people this is not critical, but others like to understand the mental-process that accompanies the advice. I cannot offer this. This is not a CBT course.

The only drawback with this style of advice-giving is that it doesnt really encourage independent thought on anxiety. I liken it to me explaining to you how to fix your car (assuming you did not already know how). I am telling you which component to purchase, which tool to use and exactly how to use it to replace the faulty part. However I am not telling you WHY. If you knew the mechanics of the component and the system it works within, you could figure out the root cause of a similar problem next time independently, and therefore fix it without any help. And the same goes for mental thought mechanisms, I think.

So this guide doesnt deal with the why but the how. If any of you are familiar with the site soyouwanna.com, its going to be like one of their guides: enough to get you going, but not entirely enough to act as a stand-alone volume of knowledge.

Additionally, dont assume this all perfect advice (is there such a thing?), most of this advice youll see repeated over and over online and in books and such, but Ive mixed it with a lot of personal opinions which dont necessarily work for everyone.


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My Story (with pictures!)




Me in 2005 pre-presentation:
  • Visibly shaking
  • A rush of something (adrenaline?) so intense I felt as if I was fading in and out of consciousness. This led to a fear of fainting during the talk.
  • Visualising myself physically running away






Me now, pre-presentation:
  • Still nervous, but anxiety is small enough to be manageable
  • Visualising myself talking, and people smiling and listening



I had been avoiding presentations my entire life up until my final year at university, when I knew that continuing this behaviour would hurt my final degree classification significantly and hinder my chances of finding graduate work. I ended up doing three presentations in total in that final year, and I went from being a D grade to an A grade presenter in the space of one year. Sometimes I get the feeling that if I can do it, then anyone can, especially considering how terrified I was initially. Quite literally, a few years ago the mere thought of presentations twisted my bowels into knots, broke me out in a cold sweat and made me want to puke all over the floor.

Proof that you can enjoy presentations, eventually, after butt-loads of practice i.e. YEARS, dont ever think I have some natural ability to do public speaking, I was truly phobic of it. My key was practice, practicing in schools many times with volunteering work, practice at uni, in front of friends, on my own, and at a public speaking training course at work. To put it into context, I carried out approximately 8 presentations before I started getting so confident I started looking forward to them!




That's a smile, believe it or not!!

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Ready for the challenge?

There are a few ingredients you need for success here: persistence, determination, and patience.

Persistence
I say this because I do not believe that many people could overcome this fear without doing lots of presentations (practice or real, both count).

Determination
Hopefully you will be determined enough such that even when you feel scared, even when things are not going to plan, you still have your end goal in mind.

Patience
Like anything difficult in life, you must learn slowly in easy, manageable steps. Learning to swim, ride a bike, drive a car, these are all skills we take time to learn, often employing the expertise of friends or professionals to help the process and investing lots of time and energy to master them. The same goes for a public speaking, whether you want to become just ok, good, or an expert at the art of public speaking all depends on how much time and energy you invest.

In my experience it is often the most socially confident speakers who deliver the worst presentations. Maybe they under-prepare because they believe that public speaking is just like speaking to your mates, only louder? They incorrectly assume that public speaking requires no or little practice, and their performances are subsequently mediocre.

There will be two parts to improving your public speaking skills:

1. Get over the fear such that you get up there and talk!
2. Improve the content and presentation style such that the audience enjoy the experience and/or you get better grades/more kudos at work.

Of course these two are interlinked. Reduce the anxiety and you will focus on your content more during the talk. Spend more time improving content and you will feel more confident about presenting the work, so anxiety decreases.

If you only want to reduce the fear and give an ok performance (i.e. survive!) then there is nothing wrong with that the same advice still applies. I have not attempted to present the two levels of advice separately as that would be near-impossible as they are so closely related!

***By the way if any of the following sounds super familiar it is because some of this advice was taken directly from SA UK forum posts. Originally, I saved them into a single Word document and read them when preparing myself for my presentations. Sorry I cannot remember who originally posted them, it was amazing advice and very useful! Thank you to those people.
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  #2  
Old 22nd October 2008, 19:02
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

So you’ve discovered you have to present…

Assuming you have decided to go ahead with it, we need to start preparing for the talk. Here are my ideas, in chronological order, pick and choose as you like.

1. Gather information about the presentation

Well in advance, gather as much information as you can about the presentation’s requirements (e.g. length, size of audience, location, technology available for visuals, formal or informal style, will there be Q&A afterwards etc.) This ensures there are no surprises on the day, so you can plan and practice for almost every eventuality.

2. Start preparing content

Write a draft of your potential presentation: bullet point all the major ideas you want to talk about, but don’t write word-for-word what you want to say. Keep this open until later on. Write anything else you think is pertinent to your preparation.

A draft at this point might look like this:




That’s all. Nice and simple. Just bullet points. As you can probably tell the overall theme is not very focused at this stage. Think of it as brain storming / mind showering (). There are lots of ideas, some slightly irrelevant points made, these will later on be trimmed down. Also, there are many questions. They will be answered after you think more about the structure, and after practicing in front of others. (BTW, the little bullet points are ‘Boo’ the ghost from the Super Mario games, although that didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped).

What I am aiming to show here is that everyone’s presentation content will be a bit, dare I say it, crap at first. The key is reiteration. I once created a presentation layout and stuck to it religiously for a month, practicing exactly what to say in the lead up to the presentation date. Three days before I was due up, I got a colleague to look through the slides. His second opinion was like gold dust! He gave me so much good advice which enabled me to ‘tighten’ up the content, chop out the rubbish and focus on the important bits etc.

An additional reason why I like to start with brain storming rather than a set structure (as we shall see in the next section): after a creative outpouring of ideas, then something will always jump out at me and enthuse me and energise me for the presentation. I may remember, to use the video game theme again, a particular game I played which I absolutely loved and was fascinated by. My enthusiasm for sharing that passion will make me look forward to the presentation because I know I can talk about it with ease, even if only in the company of friends. Ideas and inspiration first, structure later.

3. Structure the content further

Once you’re satisfied that your notes cover all the key points, you need to structure your talk (otherwise it will be very difficult to follow). Of course not all presentations follow the same structure, so this needs to be adapted for the topic and your audience’s specific requirements. A book on presenting will be very useful at this stage as they can advise you better than I can. But the basic premise to structuring the ideas is this: write down the structure, and arrange all the key points under subheadings. The classic ones are;

Introduction
1. Introduce yourself (who are you, your job title or background etc.)
2. State clearly the aim of the presentation and roughly how long it will take
Aims & Content of Presentation
1. Say what you are going to say!
Main body
1. This is the crux of the presentation. All your main content should be here
Conclusion
1. What is the final thought/decision after discussing the main body?
Summary
1. Summarise the main body and conclusion. This is not the same as a conclusion!
Q&A
1. Questions from audience. Alternatively, you can put this section before the summary, that way you have a more structured finish to the presentation.

Create as many further subheadings under the main body as you like, but bare in mind the length of your presentation when doing so.

So, the simple video game script from before will now look something like this:




You can see now that
The OVERALL aim of the presentation has been chosen and set (previously it seemed a bit muddled). Sometimes this evolves naturally, other times you will know exactly the focus of your talk from the very beginning. Make the aim of the talk specific, and you are making it easier for yourself because then it’s easy to spot waffle-y content which does not add to the main aim.
Some of the ideas have been fleshed out, but it is still not completely finished. This script is not enough for a nervous presenter to talk from in my opinion, unless you have a great memory!
Note that there are only FOUR main themes discussed in this presentation - the rest is introducing and concluding those four themes. If anything, I think maybe four is too many if you intend on going into lots of detail, especially for a 15 minute talk. Let’s assume this presentation is very basic, so the presenter can cover a few more ideas than it was, for example, a degree-level psychology research presentation!

4. Consider Visuals and Props

Give some thought to visuals so you have time to collect them well ahead of the day: pictures you need, videos, models, hands-outs etc. But don’t throw them into the talk thoughtlessly, make sure they enhance the points you are trying to make in some way. Don’t hide behind your props – psychologically and physically! Handing out notes before or during the talk may temporarily distract your audience, but it won’t hide bad presenting. If you are adamant about using hand-outs, trial them out on a friend during a practice run and then decide.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:06
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

5. Mental Preparation – Visit the Location

Another old quote from an SA UK member:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ?
go and visit where you will be performing your presentation. stand where you will be standing for a few moments. this relieves some of the anxiety on the day because you have a picture in your head of what the room and general atmosphere will be like.
I cannot stress how incredibly anxiety RELIEVING this is. Just go there and stand, take in the size, the acoustics, where will you stand, do you have space to pace during your talk, space to walk up to the audience, can you change the chair arrangement? Also this allows you to see if there are facilities for a PC/laptop for slides, or for an overhead projector etc. Do this early on so that you have plenty of time to adapt your talk and materials to the facilities and space available.

EVEN BETTER – go with a friend and get them to stand where you will be standing, get them to try and talk to you. Sit somewhere difficult, like right at the back. Can you hear them? If the acoustics are REALLY bad I would suggest to move the location (if it is not up to then I’m sure the person in charge will understand when you tell them that the acoustics are going to make it difficult for them to hear you!)

As an example of this, at university our class was split up into two teams. The ‘other’ team presented in what seemed like a very SA-friendly room: it was small, so not many people could fit in, and presumably you didn’t have to talk very loudly to be heard. I was in the audience at the back during their hour long presentation. The verdict = it was AWFUL, not the content or delivery, but the acoustics meant that every sound bounced off the walls and created a horrible ‘buzz’ which made it difficult to hear anything. Everything sounded fuzzy. Following this fiasco my team were moved to a big scary lecture theatre:



Although it is certainly not the biggest lecture theatre in the world, it was big enough such that I went into panic mode. I remember sitting in those front seats behind the projector trying to hide the fact I had tears in my eyes. I wanted to give up. But after a bit of practicing (and some support from my team mates I have to say) we discovered that the acoustics in this theatre were in our favour. So, the show went on!


6. Consider Medicinal Aids

Consider short-term medication if your anxiety is very intense.

Another old quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ?
Talk to your doctor about beta blockers, such as Propranolol. In my experience beta blockers are good for situational anxiety caused by things you have to do occasionally but not all the time, but which you might otherwise chicken out of - such as presentations, job interviews, dentist visits, or going to a new hairdresser that you've never used before. They aren't without side effects, though, so don't use them all the time.


Beta blockers don’t work effectively for everyone, so it may take some experimenting before you find a suitable medicine. But make sure you try any medication BEFORE a presentation (during a practice session would be ideal). The last thing you want is to find out that you’re falling asleep just as you get up to talk! This is exactly what happened to my partner who was presenting alongside me during a group seminar. He does not have SA but had the usual pre-presentation butterflies. I had used some Diazepam/Valium to calm myself so he tried one on a hunch, only to find out 5 minutes before he was due on stage that he was feeling verrrrrry sleepy.

7. Generating the FINAL Presentation Material

Let’s assume you will be using some form of presentation software such as Power Point in the background. If not I would strongly recommend it, unless the nature of the talk deems it totally unsuitable. Harsh words have been said about Power Point (or the misuse of it), but having good looking slides that you can mentally link to notes and prompts in your head or on paper is a VERY effective way to deliver a great presentation.



Just be aware of the classic mistakes people make when employing the power of PowerPoint:
  • Over complicated slides, text and image-heavy
  • Presenter reads text from slide directly (on purpose or out of habit), whilst his or her body is facing the audience, the neck is craned back to read from the slide. Again, this is a poor technique and the best you will get is an ‘ok’ performance. Similarly, if it works for you, fine, but there are better methods.
This is my advice regarding creating effective Power Point slides. By this stage I am assuming you have already structured what you will talk about.

1. Create your slides based on the structure you designed earlier. E.g. One slide for introduction, one for contents, a few for each main body point you wish to make etc. A good rule of thumb is that one slide equals approximately three minutes of talking. So for a 30 minute presentation you should have roughly 10 slides (so if you end up with 30, you know you have too many- simple).
2. Spend time making the slides look attractive, bold and simple to understand. Make sure you are proud of your material and not embarrassed by it. I cannot stress the idea of SIMPLICITY enough. If you are faced with huge chunks of text you may panic and forget things. Simpler bullet points or drawings will act as a backup prompt to remind you what to say. I believe that you cannot hide poor content with elaborate slides. Better to keep it simple. My personal preference is to be almost childlike with the appearance (very little text, and bold images). This is especially important if your presentation is scientific or technical because it is very easy to present TOO MUCH graphical data - don’t overload the audience. As an example, here are some of my slides from the presentation that I got my highest grade in, and below that, from the presentation I did recently at work:





The smiley face on the vacuum cleaner was interesting because it was meant to represent a Henry vacuum – it seemed a bit gimmicky and childish to include it, but since the presentation was quite dry I thought it was justified. In the end it actually got a few smiles from the audience and a chuckle from a visiting employee of the company we did the research work for! This also had the added benefit of relaxing me, the speaker. Don’t be afraid to be a little informal if it helps you relax.


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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:07
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

To Script, or not to Script?

At this stage you can either a) (for the super anxious) start writing a word-for-word script or b) start creating simplified prompt notes for you to refer to whilst you talk. And then there’s c) go commando and do the talk with no aids whatsoever.

a) Word-for-Word Script

Personally I am very much against this idea as it encourages dependence on the written words: you will read and talk like a robot because it is difficult to inject tonality into your voice when you’re fixated on reading from a piece of paper. Additionally, making eye contact will be nearly impossible – and if you do manage to look up to the audience, the ensuing confusion when you can’t find your place in the text again will make you very nervous.

An alternative method is to memorise the script directly, and only use prompt cards to jog your memory. The only difference is that you won’t be holding a large piece of paper.

Either way, although this method is the easiest, it is also the least effective. Because you are focussed on trying to read the script AND talk, or trying to remember words AND talk, you are more likely to loose sight of the subject and merely think about how incredibly awful and difficult it is to do public speaking! This is fine (you are going to nervous and you are going to have to deal with it anyway) but for these reasons, I would only recommend this method when:
The outcome of the presentation is not critical to you (i.e. you just want to survive, or just get a ‘pass’ mark)
You are not likely to be engaged in any form of discussion (i.e. no Q&A) OR you think you can handle answering questions after reading religiously from a script.

The best you can hope for with this method is an ‘ok’ performance, BUT if this is good enough for your then go for it! I watched an hour long presentation recently by a professional survey engineer who read directly from his script, but who also sometimes would break from the script to ad-lib and describe a diagram in his slides, or to explain something in more detail when the audience returned him confusing looks. It worked fairly well because he was flexible about it.

Additionally:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ?
with regards to holding a piece of paper with notes on it. i would avoid that. Ive seen nervous people holding pieces of paper while doing presentations, and the paper amplifies the shaking in your hands, it looks awful. I remember watching one person and i was literally looking at his wibbly wobbly paper for the whole presentation.
When you carry out an assessment of the presentation location, see if they have a lectern for you to place your notes on.

b) Presentation Prompt Notes

I think attempting to recall anything memorised during a presentation is awful and terrifying and I avoid it at all costs. If I have to remember a specific, difficult fact, I incorporate it into my slides. The rest is based on my existing bank of knowledge on the subject. Prompts, for me, remind me of roughly what I have to say. I will respond to them in the best way I can at the time - this means that my actual spoken words are more fluid because I am not bound by a word-for-word script. This helps me to relax. Also, I am forced to focus on the subject, and this redirects the focus externally, also good for reducing nerves. I am just talking, nothing else. Yes, I don’t enjoy talking, but it is far easier than talking AND trying to read or remember complex scripts!

It may seem scary at first to think that you can do a presentation without memorising anything. If you try it and the anxiety is too much to tolerate and is making it difficult for you to talk freely, then by all means use a script. Better to survive a presentation than to chicken out altogether. If, when you attempt to talk you find yourself constantly re-correcting yourself, stuttering or stumbling over your words (I still do this!) then don’t be afraid to stop and start again, even say ‘Excuse me’ and start again.

Naturally, the difficulty of methods you use will improve as you gain confidence. So if you avoid this method now, perhaps keep it in mind when you start doing more presentations. Perhaps you will practice with a script for many days, but switch over to prompt cards once you gain familiarity with the subject, and with the different ways of expressing the ideas.

How to make prompts
1. Buy a decent set of presentation cards or cut some out of card yourself. Make sure they are not too flimsy because they need to be durable.
2. On the cards you will write something to prompt you to say what you want to say. These could be single words, short phrases or even doodles, whatever you prefer. I find the best way to do this is to write a question addressed to myself. This is very effective because you are not tempted to read directly, you are answering the question on the card and this helps to add tonality to your voice because it replicates how you would respond to another human asking you a question. I call it the ‘black-mamba’ method. Like this:





The response would go something like this:

Who are you? Good afternoon everyone, my name is black mamba from SA UK.

<short pause to briefly glance at the next question>

Why are you here? Today I’m going to be presenting the results from my research on Conspiracy within the Eurovision Song Contest Voting System.

<short pause again>

What will you be talking about? Firstly, I will take you through the premise and history of the Song Contest, for those who are not already familiar. Next we will be looking into some of the X, Y and Z theories. And finally, I will summarise all my findings. If you’re wondering how long this is going to take, I’m aiming for just under 30 minutes.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:10
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Practice makes Presentations Perfect

So now you should have a good idea of what you will be saying, and have all the necessary tools to deliver the presentation.

In my experience, not practicing at all creates an anxiety build-up of epic proportions such that on the day, minutes before you are due to talk, the risk of chickening-out is ENORMOUS.


Practicing is easily the single most positive thing you can do to reduce your anxiety prior to public speaking.



[The second is effective medication, for me anyway ]


I see this as a chance for you to slowly chip away at your anxiety. It WILL hurt at first you WILL be nervous, even practicing in front of familiar friends but keep at it. If you have no one to practice in front of, then use a mirror or a cuddly toy. Anything to represent someone watching you.

Also essential is that practicing in front of a live audience will often highlight things that were not obvious previously. Feel free to go back to the drawing board and improve the content, slides or props at any stage.

If you havent done any public speaking before, then merely practicing in front of friends will still be terrifying. I know it was for me. But dont give up at this stage - start small and work your way up. Practice doing the presentation in your head, whisper it to yourself whilst on the bog or in the shower (you may laugh, but it works for me). Then when you are happier with your talk, try it in front of a sympathetic friend. Then maybe two friends, or two stuffed cuddly toys.

If you have classmates who all have to practice doing presentations, arrange an evening when you all present to each other but keep the group small you dont want to give yourself a heart attack. Do a full dress-rehearsal: wear the clothes you will be wearing (will it be uncomfortable on the day?), the props you chose and the slides and script or prompt cards you will use. Your anxiety will probably be very high because this is the closest you will get to the conditions of the actual presentation. I would try to make this event as comfy and fun as possible to help you relax and to turn the presentation into something exciting. Do it at your/your friends home, play some of your favourite music in the background (mentally this helps me ENORMOUSLY) / have munchies and drinks on tap / have something fun to do afterwards. If you chicken out in front of friends, dont ever think of it as a failure. Forget it, enjoy the rest of your evening and try again later.

When I was at uni, I forced myself into situations where I could practice public speaking with little or no consequences if I chickened out or did it badly I did some ad-hoc volunteering in local primary schools and the initial bit where I stood up in front of the whole class to introduce myself was terrifying enough to begin with! Eventually I had to do a little more talking in front of the classes, and this served as excellent practice. Yes I was nervous, but I knew that in front of children (whom I would never see again anyway) I knew I could just about cope with the nerves.


Miscellaneous Practice Tips

These can be used whilst you practice on your own and in front of friends.
  • If possible, try to practice in the actual location of the presentation at least once before the day.
  • Time yourself / get a friend to. It is very difficult to judge how long we talk for, especially when nervous. Dont deliberately rush/slow down to reach a time goal, just present, be nervous, make mistakes. Afterwards, assess the timing: was it too long because you were nervous or because you gave yourself too much to say? And visa versa if it was too long slow down or cut down on content.
  • If you know you will be (or are likely to be) questioned after your talk, it is essential that you get your fake-audience to engage with the subject and try to ask questions after you finish, no matter how stupid the question. Not only will this make you more confident about speaking ad-lib but you will get some insight into what questions may come up.
  • In addition to this (especially if your fake-audience is not familiar with the subject) try and think of difficult questions by yourself that are likely to come up and ask your audience to test you at the end. Try not to be caught out by something obvious I learnt this the hard way when I accidentally left a piece of jargon on my slides which, although easy to visualise, is a nightmare to explain in speech. One very astute lecturer in the audience asked me to explain the jargon and I was shocked. My answer wasnt satisfactory, which threw me off balance for the next few questions. Again, another quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ?
Also, try to anticipate a few of the most likely questions that may come up - and write scripts for the answers to them too. Don't try to know the answer to every possible question, though, but practice handling questions that you don't know the answer to. Will you bluff it, or will you refer them to another source, or will you tell them you'll look into it and get back to them? I'd recommend against bluffing - but do whatever's best for you.
  • Id also recommend against bluffing even if youre not found out it could add to the anxiety because you are being dishonest. Being honest about not knowing the answer to a question is often easier, and gains more respect, than trying to waffle through a messy made-up response. K.Y.S. (Know Your Sh*t! ;-)) If you dont K.Y.S. then reduce the level of the entire talk you are pitching at, make it more basic, then the level of detail in the questions people ask you will lower in general.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:15
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

How to Speak Effectively

These tips serve as advice to be employed during the presentation itself, but you must practice them. Dont worry if you cannot do everything on this list, very few people are perfect at this regardless of SA. Its ok to make mistakes. But the more you try to incorporate these tips into your practice sessions, the more natural it will feel on the actual day.

Quoted from an old forum post:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ?
2. Its easy to rush and blurt everything out when we're nervous and anxious and think our hearts going to explode out of our chest. Slow Down! Speak as calmly as you can, and slowly, with as much power and tonality in your voice as you can manage.

4. Make sure you look at people. Be it in there eyes, at their noses, their hair, or something.

5. Think of people you think are great speakers, think of their confidence, their clear voice, and imagine them speaking and imagine you performing as they do. My 3 would be Mulder from the X-files (suave, intelligent, witty), or John Cage (master courtroom closer, relaxed, extremely conposed) from Ally McBeal, or JFK. I said this once ages ago in an old post. It sounds silly, but I think it does work because it makes you approach the presentation abit more clinically, and makes you focus on exactly what trying to do. Communicate ideas in a clear confident way. If you have any doubts, watch those free people and realise how good they are, and see if you can steal any of that flair and charisma.

6. Lower your expectations. Realise you wont do it perfect, and you WILL get anxious probably, so that when the anxiety does hit you up there it doesnt freak you out as much, because you knew it was coming anyway. We're not after perfection, an OK performance is fine.

7. Mistakes are allowed. Because no ones perfect. If you forget what you need to say, dont panic, look down at your papers calmly and see what point your at, and go at it again.

8. When you've finished dont quickly say 'thats it!'. Summarise what you've said so they know the end is coming and say 'thank you for listening, does anyone have any questions?'. Whether they do or dont, SLOWLY walk back to your seat. As much as you wanna get away from the front, dont powerwalk back to your seat!

9. Its only a presentation. Dont be too serious about it. Dont big it up in your head. Reduce it to something trivial and not that important. But still prepare for it LOADS obviously, but see it for what it is. Know as you get up that you are prepared, and that you will get through it, not perfectly, but you'll do it.
Another:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ?
make it enjoyable. throw in as many different things you can. props, slides, diagrams, pictures, get your audience involved. try not to be deadly serious, maybe even throw a couple of light hearted jokes in there.

And my advice
  • If you start to waffle and forget what you were talking about, always refer back to your prompt cards. They will always redirect you towards the goal of the presentation.
  • Dont worry about being discreet with the cards or script. The audience knows you are using an aid, almost everyone does, so not to worry if they are visible to the audience.
  • This tip I love so much I wrote it in blue to catch your attention. Get into the habit of pausing between each major idea (visualise it like a break between paragraphs of writing). Once you finish talking through each slide, take a BIG pause. Dont fear the ensuing silence (this takes more practice than youd expect!!) Your audience needs this for two very important reasons and so do you! 1) You need the break to relax your voice and mind, and 2) you need time to switch slides and switch prompt cards and glance at your new card. Your audience needs this huge pause because 1) it gives them a chance to take in everything you have said and 2) whilst you are switching prompt cards, they can look at the new slide and take it in before you start talking about it. It sounds so simple, but it is incredibly effective. You will appear very confident with minimal effort, and your audience can follow the content at a good pace. Everyone is happy. :D
  • Regarding what to do with your hands, I do only 2 things: hands clasped loosely behind my back or in front. It looks neat (no flapping around of hands), is relaxed but not stupid (hands in pockets is ok but can look silly if left that way for the entire presentation) and makes you appear very confident. A public speaking tutor told me I looked confident with my hands behind my back, when in fact I was metaphorically sh*tting bricks. :-D So it DOES work.
Also see this excellent guide from a website I found online (click on presentation skills, then hints and tips, the site is blocked on my work PC so youll have to find the page yourself!):
www.kuhnkecommunication.com/
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  #7  
Old 22nd October 2008, 19:17
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

The Night Before and the Morning Before

It sounds obvious, but try to get a good nights sleep. Having said that, I find it impossible to sleep before a presentation due to the anxiety (and the anxiety about not getting to sleep!!) so I have to force myself by either exercising and taking a warm bath, or worst case using a sleeping pill.

Take some time also, perhaps whilst playing with your rubber ducky, to prepare yourself mentally - by thinking about something completely different! My philosophy is that you should be sufficiently prepared for the presentation such that you do not need to even think about it the night before. Your sole aim then will be to relax. I appreciate that this is not always possible, especially if you are low on time.

As I am writing this, I am remembering the true horror of one of my presentations – we had literally only hours to rehearse our individual 10 minute segments of a group seminar. If I had my way I would’ve had days. But this was the same presentation I achieved an A grade in! My point is that the conditions don’t have to be perfect for you to deliver a great presentation, so don’t be hell-bent on following this guide to the letter, just take on as much on as you practically can. I think the best piece of advice when things are going totally wrong is to simply enjoy yourself. Hopefully you’ve picked a subject you are interested in. You are talking, and no one is allowed to interrupt, everyone is listening. For 10 minutes (or however long it will be) whilst you are the speaker, your opinions and your ideas are all that matter. I think that’s pretty exciting.

As for the morning before, or just before the presentation, ensure you won’t let hunger agitate you by ensuring you have enough munchie supplies to keep you going. It is difficult to eat with butterflies in your stomach though, they keep stealing all the food.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Public Speaking Master Class



Ok, so you’re no Martin Luther King (and nor am I!), but once you’ve attained a certain threshold level of public speaking confidence you can start employing some more advanced techniques. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be very confident yet, employing a few of these ideas can still improve your presentation and audience satisfaction significantly. I should state that I am always keen to make sure my audience enjoy my talk, so that occasionally means making myself look silly in order to make people smile or take notice. The following addresses presentation technique and content rather than anti-anxiety tactics.

Change of Scenery, Change of Focus
When you switch from one section to another, make sure you do something to perk people up and make them notice that you have, in fact, changed the subject! Ideas include; walking to the back of the room to point at a poster attached to the wall, switching off the projector momentarily, switching from PowerPoint to a flipchart or whiteboard. This is particularly useful when you have a long presentation that could turn into a snooze-fest. The audience’s attention is highest right at the beginning, then it wanes. Apparently, after the speaker says ‘And finally…’ attention perks up again because they know the end is in sight. If you keep jolting the listeners throughout your talk, the attention level will stay consistently high.

Pick on Your Audience
Poor audience members, they came especially to watch you squirm; now you can exact revenge! Erm, not quite. A good way to ‘scare’ people into waking up and taking notice, is to use their names, but try not to actually insult them or ask them questions. Alternatively, ask them rhetorical questions. There are many situations where you could do this, here are some examples I thought of:

“So, looking at this next slide, I want you to appreciate the scale and size of the ship in the photo. To put it into context, that anchor you’re looking at is taller than Steve here!”

“The first thing that happens when you arrive is, you are given a safety induction. So, for example, Ahmed if you were to arrive today, you would not be able to simply start wandering around on site on your own, especially without your hard hat!”

“How would you feel if someone you cared about was attacked in a way that deliberately replicated a specific video game? Do you believe that games spawn crime and criminals, or simply influence them?”

Can I Please Have 3 Unwilling Volunteers?
Demonstrations require a lot of planning and rehearsal. When they go wrong it can be stomach churning – a good example is that poor bloke on Dragon’s Den whose egg cooking contraption completely did not work during his demonstration. But, when demos go well, they can transform a presentation from just ‘ok’ to ‘excellent’! Maximum risk = maximum effort and maximum payoff! Involving the audience in your demo also has the same crash or burn effect.

If you have a good idea for a demo, then do it, but practice it like mad and be sure to think of anything that could go wrong.

A good example is during my most recent presentation at work, we (2 presenters) decided to use to audience to simulate a complicated offshore construction method. We arranged the room accordingly (we needed a long line of tables down the middle, see the pic below) then got our props ready. We also made sure we practiced for every eventuality. During the presentation, one of those situations we envisaged came up. Scary, but it went smoothly. Everyone was smiling during the demo and loving the interaction. The rest of the audience was fascinated and I think the risk paid off significantly.




So, to summarise:
  • Spend some time perfecting your content
  • Practice
  • Practice
  • Make any changes to your content based on the practice
  • Practice
  • Seek suitable medication
  • Practice
  • Make your slides look good
  • Practice
  • Practice ‘on location’
  • Practice
  • Practice
If you guys have some advice, or questions, please feel free to post.
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  #8  
Old 22nd October 2008, 19:19
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

P.S. I have this guide in a Word document (that's how I wrote it, can you tell from the inconsistent formatting? ), if anyone wants it in that format I can email it out.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:32
Winnie57 Winnie57 is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

That's really impressive black_mamba - I'm sure it will be of help to people who have to do public speaking in their jobs or at college etc.

I really like the picture of you on the big screen. You look like a professional presenter and super-confident.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:33
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Mods, if you don't mind, can we make this topic a 'sticky' so that people can always find it easily, and add their own advice. It's a heavily recurring issue on this forum so I think it's justified.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 19:54
Occultus Occultus is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Quote:
Originally Posted by black_mamba
Mods, if you don't mind, can we make this topic a 'sticky' so that people can always find it easily, and add their own advice. It's a heavily recurring issue on this forum so I think it's justified.
It's gonna cost ya, mamba

Very impressive post(s), BTW
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Old 22nd October 2008, 20:02
WelshKat WelshKat is offline
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Very inspirational! Thanks so much for typing this up so well!
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  #13  
Old 23rd October 2008, 16:14
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Winnie - bless you, a professional presenter my word!

Hey marki, if I were in your situation I'd think of all the most challenging situations you might land yourself in during the tribunal i.e the most difficult questions that could be asked of you, or the most difficult responses to your questions. That way you won’t be startled if they come up.

Thanks everyone for your kind words, I really hope this guide proves useful.
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Old 23rd October 2008, 16:23
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Good stuff BM, sauk needs more of that.
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Old 23rd October 2008, 17:11
Lolly Lolly is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

tink this will be my bedtime reading. ive jus started uni n even the word presentation makes me feel sick
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Old 27th October 2008, 08:06
Pal Pal is offline
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Excellent article there young lady, my hat comes off.
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Old 27th October 2008, 10:09
Flagstaff Flagstaff is offline
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Excellent thread. Cant agree more about preparation and practice. I regularly deliver presentations to groups of 20-30 people at a time now and still dread everyone of them! But I know that once I have prepared the room for the presentation, booted up the Powerpoint I really enjoy it. Now its a polished performance and a couple of well placed 'one liners' gets a bit of a laugh and everyone feels relaxed. I guess I owe Bill Gates a beer!
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Old 27th October 2008, 10:10
Flagstaff Flagstaff is offline
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Red face Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

I guess I owe Bill Gates a beer![/QUOTE]

If I can bring myself to go into a pub and relax that it!
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  #19  
Old 27th October 2008, 19:14
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Lolly go for it, uni is a good place to start practicing presentations.

Pal thanks. *steals your hat*

Flagstaff cool! What sort of presentations do you deliver?
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  #20  
Old 27th October 2008, 20:41
Pal Pal is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Quote:
Originally Posted by black_mamba
Pal thanks. *steals your hat*
It's the garden party hat so it'd look more fetching on you then it does me.
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  #21  
Old 28th October 2008, 01:33
IRIS IRIS is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

i am good at public speaking - it is social situatins that scare me
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  #22  
Old 28th October 2008, 01:45
threadbare threadbare is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

bookmarked for future reference.
(have to do my first uni presentation in a couple of months)
thanks Black Mamba, really generous of you to share this.
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  #23  
Old 6th November 2008, 17:40
hikky hikky is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Hmm, interesting guide.. I found that I was always surprisingly good at public speaking given that I'm someone with anxiety.. but maybe it just feels somewhat impersonal is why.. although I'm bad at it if I have to hold a paper up because then my hands start shaking..
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  #24  
Old 24th November 2008, 02:33
helena888 helena888 is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

id be alright if given a script or was acting or being someone else with a different accent i reckon. Or passionate Or wearing a huge amount of make up like a mask... other than that i couldnt even contemplate right now being watched and speaking at the same time. My nerves just take over and mind goes blank. bit of a bugger

yawn
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Old 20th December 2008, 16:36
Orinoco Orinoco is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Strangely enough, I find public speaking scary but not as scary as ordinary everyday social situations. Feel a bit more in control as I have the time to plan and know what Im going to say and therefore dont freeze.
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Old 20th December 2008, 17:06
Medea Medea is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orinoco
Strangely enough, I find public speaking scary but not as scary as ordinary everyday social situations. Feel a bit more in control as I have the time to plan and know what Im going to say and therefore dont freeze.
I'm exactly the same. If I just have to speak it's easier than interacting. Small talk is the absolute worst.
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  #27  
Old 3rd June 2009, 02:06
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Guide to Small Talk coming right up!
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  #28  
Old 6th September 2009, 05:43
mils mils is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

Thanks for this black_mamba. It is comforting to read about other people struggling with this. Practice and preparation is something that I struggle with, because to do those things makes you think about it...

I gave a disasterous presentation in June, I can laugh about it now, but I wasn't laughing then! I used to think that I should write on the blackboard, because I could concentrate on that rather than the audience and it would slow me down. That approach went horribly wrong in June, I realise now that giving myself more to do, is just giving myself more to mess up.

In a couple of weeks I've got another one to do, and there will be no writing, just slides. I've noticed that when people just use slides, the audience don't really look at the speaker, they just look at the slides. And you can almost tell me people not to look at you - point at the slides, look at this, look at that. It is more controlled...
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  #29  
Old 7th September 2009, 09:01
micgrace micgrace is offline
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Talking Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

I did a teaching course (not finished) at one time. That was the best cure I ever had. I literally was forced to speak in public for many hours a day. Prior to that, tongue tied, stumble, duck and hide, shake so bad it was ridiculous. Result now? Cured. Now they can't shut me up.
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  #30  
Old 4th October 2009, 02:12
loner1 loner1 is offline
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Default Re: Public Speaking for the Socially Anxious

welll done solider thats the spirit. fight on and never give up!
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