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Monday, 04 April 2016

Public Speaking? Don't Sweat It!

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Participants often ask me after a speech or a facilitated training I've done, how I got so comfortable speaking in front of groups? This is usually followed by “Do you have any tips that could help make me a better speaker?” After responding with “Yes, hire me.”, I realize how many people out there, in all walks of life, are terrified of public speaking. In fact the latest list of people’s greatest fears ranks Public Speaking at #2 and fear of death at #6. That’s right, people fear public speaking more than dying. Here’s the good news, it’s really not that tough.


I’ve come to the realization that the skill of public speaking is something I have taken for granted. The reality is many people have difficulty with and a fear of public speaking. The reason for the inherent fear is presenters think they’re going to screw up and look foolish. Well, as someone who has been speaking in front of audiences for 40 years, I will tell you, I have screwed up on more than one occasion. It happens. The point is you should NEVER go into it thinking that you’re going to mess up. Ball players don't get up to bat thinking they're going to strike out. You should instead focus on what you’re going to say and do and it's impact. If you worry about making mistakes, you’ve set yourself up for failure. Remember it’s not about YOU, it’s about your AUDIENCE.

I was able to get over the fear of getting in front of an audience at a young age because I have a theater background. So audiences have never really been an issue for me. Now you’re asking, “Well I don’t have a background like that so what do I do?” Great question. Here’s the answer…you don’t need that background if you follow the steps below. These are things I’ve been doing all along that anyone can master.

So the next time you have to deliver a speech, facilitate a training, make a business presentation, give a toast at an event, tell a story in front of a large group or just about anything you have to do in front of an audience…remember these key tips:

#1) Know Your Subject Matter

·         You’re the expert, let that show through

·         Go over your material, facts, subject matter, jokes, story or toast BEFORE you have to present

·         Get comfortable by PRACTICING…PRACTICING…PRACTICING...Did I mention PRACTICING

·         You’re not going to know everything but you should know where to find answers

#2) Get Audience Involved

·         Get everyone participating

·         ASK your audience questions (Even if they only respond with head shakes that’s still PARTICIPATION)

·         LEAD them to answers when you do ask questions, don’t just TELL

·         Use appropriate humor but don’t embarrass anyone, you’ll lose the audience (Us VS Them)

·         If you don’t have an answer, don’t guess or make something up

·         Know where to find the answer(s) and let them know you will get back to them (Don’t forget to follow up or your credibility is lost.)

#3) Control Tangents

·         Stay on time and on point

·         Politely stop run-offs (Yours and your audiences)

·         Stay focused on the reason you are there

·         Keep it moving and brisk, you only have a finite amount of time

#4) Body Language and Attitude

·         What message does your body language send?

- I am terrified

- I have no idea what I am talking about

- I cannot wait for this to be over…how much longer do I have

·         Look like you are enjoying yourself (You should be). If you’re not having fun presenting, your audience is not enjoying listening to you…or your message

·         The more enthusiasm, energy and interactivity you incorporate into your presentation, the higher the retention levels. People will remember more when they’re engaged and not bored

·         Make eye contact with your audience. Eye contact says; trust me and believe what I am saying. Eyes on a Power Point or manual says; I don’t know the topic well enough

·         SMILE! Sets a great tone even in a serious presentation. Can really help ease the tension


·         Just because you’re in front of a group doesn’t mean you should transform into someone you’re not

·         Find a style that fits your personality so you are COMFORTABLE

·         When you’re COMFORTABLE so is the audience

·         Humor is great if you’re someone who is FUNNY…If you’re not, your speech will die a slow painful death


Here is my final tip. I am about to share with you the greatest facilitation tip ever devised. This is based on my years of presenting so I know it works. Trust me. Here goes:

I want you to think about the worst training or meeting you have ever attended. Now, take a piece of paper and write down everything that you thought made it so bad that it still resonates with you today. Was it the subject matter, lack of preparation, the speaker or facilitator, the room, what you learned or didn’t learn, how it related to you in your everyday life or job, your enjoyment level and finally your retention level of the topic(s)? Write that list now…I will give you 3 minutes. Please write legibly. (The clock is ticking)

OK, times up. Take a long look at the list you’ve created. Marvel at how well you were able to identify all the things that made that particular facilitator, training or meeting so bad. Now take your pen and put a big “X” over the entire list you’ve just created. Here’s the tip:




Simple right? Everyone can identify what bad facilitation is. When it’s our turn however to facilitate, we usually do the exact things we know are bad. If it’s bad why do it? Avoid those, remember these tips, have fun and watch what happens to your facilitation and presentation skills. You’ll thank me…and so will your audience. Don’t sweat it.





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John F Quattrucci

John Quattrucci is Q Training Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in innovative and entertaining training. 

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