Feel the fear of presenting…and do it anyway!

Feel the fear of presenting…and do it anyway!

Top 10 Tips for success.

Within the field of ‘Presentation Skills’ (for want of a better descriptor), I have noticed at times, the deep discomfort that some people have in this area.  

I am not talking about those who are ‘new to presenting’. I am also talking about some people – senior and experienced leaders, whose job it is to engage their businesses and motivate their teams. Their ‘deep fear’ of presenting dramatically affects their approach to this necessity – some avoiding it at all costs, some experiencing massive stress in the build up to an ‘event’, and others simply doing a lack-lustre job. The impact on them, their teams and their organisation is huge…and in some cases presents career-limiting barriers as they are considered unable to communicate effectively. 

Change is possible! 

I have worked in this field for over 25 years, and in that time have been very lucky to work with many hundreds of people, helping them develop their capability in whatever context ‘presenting’ may be for them. This could be a presentation to a group of people, a conference keynote speech, a virtual communication with the audience spread across cultures, geographies and time zones….and anything in between. I have witnessed many ‘breakthrough moments’, seeing people truly transform their confidence and capability as a communicator, and on occasions make lasting bonds with those people as they have continued to enjoy the success of their newfound skills in their career.   

The primary cause… 

In Susan Jeffers’ excellent book ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’, she talks about the fact that ‘fear of…’ is very often NOT the psychological problem many of us believe it to be, and that in fact the primary cause is one of ‘education’. This would suggest that therefore, we should be able to address most of our ‘fear ofs’ through learning something´ that will help us cope. 

Now…let’s be clear. I am not downplaying this, just because it is something that I relish personally. I acknowledge and empathise with the fact that the ‘fear’ may well be based in a significant event from the past (often ridicule from school days, or learnt behaviour having been around others who project that very same fear…and any number of other reasons).  

So, what’s my message, here…? 


Well, like Susan, and based on my experiences of working with many hundreds of ‘cases’, I am convinced that almost all of you out there who have this fear, when being asked to ‘make a presentation’ can address it, and address it relatively easily. Let me explain: When I explore with those who say that they have a fear around presenting, it is almost always based on their concern around what others will think of them, and having clarity around the message that they want to deliver. They also become ‘hung up’ on their script…the words that they need to remember….and at the same time, realising that the very best presenters don’t seem to follow a script… 

All of this can be quite a conundrum.

So, here are my top 10 ingredients for you to create the recipe for success…easy for me to write down, I grant you…but truthfully, when consistently applied, will make a dramatic difference. 

Tip #1. Always start at the end – When planning your presentation, always start at the end – what do you want to happen as a result of the session? This is NOT ‘what you want to say’ – these are completely different things. 

Tip #2. Ask the audience – Once you are clear on this, figure out what your audience will need for you to achieve that outcome. Do not guess…go and find out.   

Tip #3. Select your content – Now, choose what you want to share that delivers against 1 and 2 above, and figure out what stories you want to tell to engage your audience and bring to life your points.   

Tip #4. Ditch the written script – Never, ever, ever write a script…if you do, you conscious mind will be spending so much time trying to remember the words, you will get stuck…and you will sound like you are reciting, rather than connecting with your audience. Think about your points as ‘stepping stones’ through your messages. 

Tip #5. Consider your flow – What is the logical sequence of what you want to share? 

Tip #6. Consider your visual aids – Create some simple, clean and clear visual aids to help you land your message and NEVER write a sentence! You need the audience to listen to you, not read what you have written. 

Tip #7. Consider your non-verbal communication – how can you use your voice, tone and body language to help bring interest into what you are sharing?
….and now for the ‘fear’ bit (we have learnt in the 7 points above to already feel much, much more confident) 

Tip #8. Fake it – No, really. Fake it. Wear the physiology and demeanor of a strong presenter. Consider posture, stance and eye contact….and you know what? The audience will find it so much easier to connect with you, because that will provide a perception of strength and confidence to your audience (even if your inner voice disagrees!), and you will actually feel this for real…the ‘faking it’ will pay back in a real feeling of confidence (but remember…this is built on the solid foundation of points 1-7 first!) 

Tip #9. Breathe – It sounds obvious…but often when we are stressed or feeling fearful, our breathing will hasten and become much shallower. We are starving ourselves of good oxygenated blood…which we need more than anything at this point. In order to think clearly, lower our heart rate and blood pressure, we need to slow everything down. So…take some time in the build up to ‘your slot’ to quietly breathe deeply, and repetitively (there are may theories behind this, but I recommend the 6666 technique – breathe in for a count of 6, hold for 6 and then slowly exhale for 6, and repeat 5 times. (so 6 in total)). This really works a treat. 

Tip #10. Finally…rehearse – Even if it is just the once. I hear many say that the first time they deliver for real is at the actual event itself (bonkers!!!) – some rehearse too much and risk losing some of the natural energy that comes with telling the stories in a confident and compelling manner. Remember, you do NOT need to remember the words….remember the message, walk the stepping stones of your message and tell the story behind the headline.  

This works! 

All you need to do, is try it out! Notice the impact that even some of the smallest changes make to how you feel. You never know, you may, like me, become a ‘presentation junkie’; the more you do it the more compelling it becomes and the bigger the impact you will make. For you, it could become one of life’s biggest rushes.  

If you are curious to learn more, take a look at our website to find out more about how we can support you and your team with this essential business skill. If you have enjoyed this article, please like and share as appropriate.

Alex Selwood

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