Monday, April 09, 2007

Get Comfortable Presenting

Most people feel uncomfortable giving presentations. Unfortunately, effective leaders often find themselves in the spotlight. Don't presume, though, that other leaders feel comfortable giving presentations. While some do feel comfortable, many have merely learned to look comfortable. Nevertheless, they don't shy away from getting up front. Here are some hints for feeling more comfortable with public speaking:
  • Start small - if the best you can do is speak up more at meetings, then do so. The more you practice the more comfortable you will feel. If you can speak comfortably to a group of four people, practice that.
  • Work up to larger groups - challenge yourself to speak to groups a little larger than you feel comfortable with. Over time, you will acclimate to larger and larger audiences.
  • Know your material - the root of many people's discomfort is a fear of looking foolish. the better your know your material, the more comfortable you will feel presenting it.
  • Have a plan - more than knowing your material, you need to have a plan for what you want to achieve with your presentation. Focus your presentation on just those things that you need to present to achieve your plan.
  • Learn from others - don't just listen to when other people present. Look for what you like and don't like in how they present. This gives you many more opportunities to improve your skills.
  • Practice, practice, practice - face your fears by seeking out opportunities to speak in public. Call meetings where you might otherwise send an email. Stand up at a whiteboard where you might otherwise run a meeting from a chair. Volunteer to facilitate meetings for peers. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel.

Communication is one of our key leadership tools and we can't afford to limit our approaches by avoiding public speaking. You need to learn to get through your fears and develop your skills for standing in the front.

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