Overcome your fear and nervousness when making a presentation

Here are several techniques that you can use which make presentations more powerful.   

  • Being prepared will take away a great deal of fear and nervousness.  That means practicing your presentations out loud.
  • It is easy to find  quotations, anecdotes, and analogies that inform, educate, and entertain your listeners if you have Internet access.  It is not longer necessary to spend hours and hours at the library.  Google is your best friend in doing research.  You should be able to give credit and follow all the copyright  laws of using quotations.  You aren’t expected to know everything.  However, you are expected to give credit to the originator of quotes and anecdotes.
  • To insure that you are not caught off guard again when you are asked to give an impromtu or short-notice presentation,
  • Creative pointers will keep your audience interested and involved when you’re presenting dry, boring, or technical material.  Introduce comical pictures to make your point.
  • Rehearse using your notes.  Practice enough times so that you don’t seem stiff or over-rehearsed.
  • Make sure that you know your visual-aids and that they make your point, rather than distract from your point.
  • Interruptions and distractions can that throw even the best-prepared speakers off course.  You can either totally ignore or address the interruptions.  Within the mentally challenged community, you need to have a point-person ready to deflect the interruption.
  • Watch your body-language.  Some errors include fidgeting with an object that you are hold in your hand.  Standing stiffly without smiling makes people uncomfortable.  However, on the opposite end, don’t be too relaxed.  Don’t lean against anything, unless you are doing it for a special effect.
  • Respond to questions with politeness and with a positive attitude.  Expect totally difficult queries.  Watch your voice inflections.  If you show anger or shock, you can lose your audience and distract from what you are saying.
  • Relax.  Breathing deeply and evenly.  This will keep you at ease and in control through long or pressured presentations
  • Project your voice by using the bottom of your diaphram.  Practice speaking with strength–not volume.  In this way you will be heard and understood without yelling or raising your voice

Okay, I admit it.  I’m loud.  My party in a restaurant has been asked more than once to be a bit quieter by some stodgie, old lady frowning through puckered cheeks and her whiskered lips.  While some other person, usually a smiling older lady with a bright print dress and perky expression, will say,  “I wanted to come sit at your table.  You were having so much fun.”  For some reason no matter how large the party, these comments are always directed at me. 

At Special Gathering, I liberally use volume to get the attention of my members.  We do chapel programs that include praise and worship and a devotion.  Most of the devotions I give at Special Gathering start loud.  And I get loud somewhere in the middle.  This comes easy for me. 

Once after teaching a particularly raucous lesson to a class of kindergartners, I was told by a younger woman, “You can get and keep the attention of people by being very quiet, as effectively as you can get their attention by being loud.”   

I softly said, “Thank you.”  But I loudly thought to myself, Sure but it would only be half the fun! 

Later, when I didn’t adopt the excessively quiet demur she preferred in my teaching style and in a frenzy of lecturing fervor, she pulled me aside and said in her quietest and most condescending tone, “When you are being loud, you are merely calling attention to yourself.  In teaching, it is the point of the lesson, not calling attention to yourself that is important.” 

Interesting, I thought, you stand before a group of people;  you have a biblical lesson to teach; you have spent hours in preparation; but you should avoid calling attention to yourself?  To me, that is an oxymoron. 

However, I know and I do acknowledge that quietly speaking and, even silence, is just as effective as being loud.  Perhaps even more effective.  And it should be used frequently in public speaking.  I also admit that silence is a bit more difficult than high volume in getting the wanted effect–which is grabbing and keeping the attention of your audience. 

For years, while others were taking notes about scriptural outlines and Biblical nuggets, I took notes about effective speaking techniques.  Some of the preachers that I learned the most from have been the worst teachers I ever sat under.  I took lots of notes, while everyone else was sleeping.  My notes were on ways to NOT teach.  I learned a textbook full of techniques.

Quickly, I realized that a lack of volume contrastwas the greatest deficit in many ineffective teachers.  Ten or fifteen minutes of yelling made everyone uncomfortable.  While whispered tones put everyone to sleep within a equally short amount of time.  Some preachers didn’t know how to turn the volume down; while an equal number didn’t know how to turn the volume up.  Both were disastrous in effective public speaking. 

Here are a few tips that I’ve found effective in other people’s teaching styles. They are especially effective when your members are developmentally delayed.  This wonderful population may have a more difficult time keeping their attention focused.

  • Silence can be used effectively in humor.  After dropping a tidbit of wit, you wait quietly for the audience to catch the humor. 
  • Becoming totally silence after you have given a loud point, alerts your audience to a mood change in your presentation.  You are about to say something important.
  • Your most important points should usually be said in a more quiet tone.  This gives your audience an unspoken but effective clue that you are deeply serious about what you are saying.
  • Beginning your presentation with silence or very quietly is effective but tricky.  If your audience does not know you, they may be embarrassed or confused by your manner. 
  • Remember confusion and embarrassment leads almost always to anger.  The last thing you want to do is to make your audience angry at you.

My friend, the quiet teacher, was always unhappy with my methods in the kindergarten class but we remained friends.  And I learned a lot from her, as she quietly, quietly and calmly whispered to a group of wiggly five-year-olds.  I learned that quiet is wonderfully soothing but sometimes to keep the attention of a crowd, you gotta turn up the volume and dance.