Does the mere thought of giving a presentation tie your stomach in knots and make you anxious?  If so, you’re in good company.  Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Courtney Cox, Bob Dylan, Brad Pitt, David Letterman, Julia Roberts, and Robert De Niro all have suffered from “stage fright” or performance anxiety at some point in their career

“All great speakers were bad speakers at first.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fear of public speaking is considered to be the number one phobia in this country.  According to one recent study, fear of public speaking was ranked ahead of death, disease, heights, and financial trouble.  Many of us would like to avoid this problem entirely, but this is hard to do.  Whether it’s addressing a major client or prospect or presenting to a large group of peers or employees, most people will be asked to present to a group at some point in their career.

The truth about public speaking, however, is it does not have to be stressful.  If you correctly understand the hidden causes of public speaking stress, and if you keep just a few key principles in mind, speaking in public will soon become an invigorating and satisfying experience for you. Here are 5 Key Points that have helped me and can also help you prepare for and deliver your next presentation with ease and confidence:

1-      The key to a powerful presentation is preparedness.  You will be confident in your presentation and delivery to the degree that you feel you are well prepared.  Make sure you know your topic.  Conduct some research and/or learn from people in relevant fields.  Practice 3 times minimum beforehand.

2-      Come in organized.  Use folders, paperclips, etc., to separate your material and then arrange it accordingly on the table/podium. Check the room for all hookups, power, etc., in advance the day of your presentation.  When presenting, use an outline, note cards, or a couple bound pages.  DO NOT read directly from your notes.  Use them as a guide only and speak to (and with) the audience.

3-      Be alive and passionate about your topic.  You don’t have to don a cheerleader’s outfit but show enthusiasm; it will hold your audience’s attention and keep them focused on your message.  Most presentations only have a few key points supported by facts, figures, examples and anecdotes.  Use real-life examples and stories wherever possible. Pepper your presentation with humor!

4-      Vary and maintain eye contact with your audience at all times (shows confidence).  Do not look down when talking (lack of confidence)!  Reviewing notes is fine provided you’re not overly reliant on them.  Always maintain an upright posture when speaking.  Use hand gestures where appropriate; move around on occasion if possible.  Smile!  Do not hide behind the table or podium.  People want to see you!

5-      Have fun!  You’re the authority and people want to listen to what you have to say. Your audience is your ally and they want you to succeed!

Almost everyone fears public speaking.  However, with preparation, practice, and persistence you can become a well-respected presenter that knows how to inform and inspire an audience!