PART 1: Glossophobia, or the fear of speaking in front of people, affects most people to some degree or another – whether it is in the form of sweaty palms or complete stage fright. Apply these tips to your repertoire today and gain the confidence you need to give a killer presentation.

No matter our chosen professions, most of us will be required to appear in front of our colleagues, employers and employees in order to give a speech or presentation at some point in our careers. When it comes to commanding the attention of a room – regardless of its size – there are a couple of things to remember.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
The reason you often hear the term “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse” is because it really can’t be stressed enough. Preparation is key for any presentation, and serves to settle the nerves and avoid any slip-ups or speed wobbles you might encounter along the way. Although this step is quite an obvious one, many people spend more time pouring over bullet points than preparing themselves for the reality of speaking before a crowd. Rehearse in front of the mirror, take note of your weaknesses and enlist the help of friends or family to critique your presentation. It is not, however, suggested that you try to memorise your speech.

Put your audience at ease
“Nobody listens to anything unless all their basic needs are taken care of,” says Doug Jefferys, speaker, author and trainer of 25 years. If your audience is comfortable, they can concentrate on what you want to tell them. Make sure the temperature in the venue is clement and that there is as little as possible background noise or distraction. You could also use humour to diffuse any tension you might be feeling, which will immediately help the audience to open up to what you have to say.

It’s in the eyes
“We associate eye contact with telling the truth,” says Jefferys. When you look at individuals in the audience, it makes them feel valued and important and increases the chances of their hearing, believing, and retaining the information you are relaying. According to Pearson Brown, public speaking coach and trainer, underestimating the importance of eye contact with the audience is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made during a presentation. “Poor speakers pay little or no attention to their audience as people,” he says. If you find speaking directly to your audience difficult, find a friendly face in the room and address it to begin with. Move on from this ‘friend’, building confidence and addressing other ‘friends’ in the audience while creating the illusion that you are speaking to everybody in the room.

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The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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