Ask anyone, young or old, about their greatest fear and you’ll likely hear, “Speaking in public!” That’s right…most of us suffer from Glossophobia…I know I did. I had two lines in my first school play and promptly spaced on the second. My wedding vows, practiced about 857 times, didn’t go so well either.
Thankfully, Glossophobia can be overcome through training and experience, and as parents and mentors, we can help build confident, skillful communicators at a surprisingly early age. It’s truly a gift for a lifetime. It involves:
- Teaching the keys to a great presentation
- Providing tips to handle nerves
- Finding avenues to polish their skills.
Keys to a Winning Presentation
As adults, we’ve been on both ends of countless presentations—good and bad. Every presentation situation is unique and requires good planning in order to succeed.
Here are some keys to teach to win over an audience:
- Effective Planning and Preparation—knowing the purpose and goals, audience, venue and layout, time allotment, technology and logistics, and formality.
- Recognizing it’s about them (the audience) and fulfilling their needs and expectations—not about you. Arrogance kills!
- Engaging the audience through questions and stories—avoiding excessive detail.
- Being enthusiastic and expressive and paying close attention to their body language to gauge their interest. Be friendly and natural and don’t forget to smile!
- Always saving room for questions, and not running over your allotted time.
- Making good eye contact with each audience member (where possible)
- Not including more than half the number of slides as minutes you have to present, and more than five bullet points on a slide. Always allocate your time to the most important slides/messages.
- If possible, knowing the personalities of your key audience members and adapting accordingly. Busy executives like compelling and succinct comments. Analytical people like facts and detail.
- Think “share with” rather than “lecture to.” Make it as conversational as you can, and, by all means, have fun!
Overcoming Our Fears
Just as a golfer battles nerves on the first tee, most of us have butterflies when we present. The good news is they usually don’t last long, and unless it’s a really bad case, the audience won’t notice. That was my biggest takeaway when I watched a video of myself at a presentation workshop. Whew!
Here are some helpful tips in handling our nerves:
- Remember, the better prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be.
- Cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to be a perfect orator to win them over! Some nervousness is to be expected.
- Remember, you (usually) know more about the subject than your audience and only you know exactly what you plan to say. If you miss something, your audience won’t even notice.
- Try to ask your audience a question as early as possible. You’d be surprised by how much this puts you at ease.
- In most cases, the audience is on your side and they want you to succeed.
- If it’s a really bad case of the nerves, cough once before you enter the room. It’s a great stress reliever! No kidding!
Providing Avenues to Develop Skills
Building effective communication skills in our children should be one of our most important training priorities. It’s an essential ingredient to a successful career and plays a huge role in all of our relationships. Because, schools don’t always consider this a top learning priority, parents need to take the lead.
Here are some helpful pointers to build confident communicators:
- Encourage them to take speech classes, debate, and club assignments with speaking and leadership opportunities.
- Have your children practice their speeches/presentations in front of you and offer positive feedback and gentle suggestions. Have them try again and even they will see the difference! It works!
- Observe and evaluate speakers (e.g., political candidates) together to help them see the difference.
- Encourage them to run small businesses (even lemonade stands!) to give them experience in speaking with others (customers, etc.).
- Watch how they conduct themselves when speaking with others (especially adults) and praise them accordingly. Confidence in general communications breeds confidence in presentations.
- Teach them etiquette and manners at every opportunity.
- Help them learn to read body language. Show them the difference between someone engaged and someone bored. This will serve them in social situations as well!
One day, they’ll thank you for it!
Dennis Trittin is President of LifeSmart Publishing and through his book and leadership course (“What I Wish I Knew at 18”) is developing young leaders. You can find Dennis and his book and leadership course at www.dennistrittin.com.