A story I often tell in Media Training and Presentation Training workshops comes from the Seinfeld show, as comedian Jerry Seinfeld discusses how speaking in public is a greater fear among humans than death. Seinfeld asks you to imagine your best friend has died and you are asked to give the eulogy. He says most people would look at their friend lying there in the casket and say, “you’re so lucky you’re there dead and not up here in front of all of these people having to talk.”
Whether you are asked to give a keynote, make a small presentation within your company, or do a media interview, fear of speaking in public creeps in for many people. Media Training and Presentation Training will give you more confidence and help you achieve effective communications.
So how do you conquer your fear? Try following these 3 steps.
First, reduce your message to a simple outline with a simple formula.
• Know exactly what the first words will be when you open your mouth.
• Those first words should never be “thank you for asking me to be here,” but should be a distinctive, well worded opening statement.
• In your opening statement, foreshadow what your conversation will cover, limiting your presentation or interview to the 3 most important things you want the audience to know and remember.
• As you make each point, add a simple story that proves your point of view is valid.
• If it is a keynote or presentation, the story should include an appropriate degree of humor, but in a media interview, the humor may be out of place.
• Know exactly what you want to say in your conclusion, just as you knew your opening statement.
Once you have this outline created, step two is to become an expert on your subject matter. However, in becoming an expert, don’t fall into the trap of filling your presentation or interview with too many facts. Your goal is to give your audience or the media some basic point, realizing they can ask you questions and you can add details based upon their degree of interest. A good way to structure your presentation or interview is the same way journalists are taught to write, namely, using the inverted pyramid style. Simply image the front page of a newspaper. It begins with a headline, followed by a synopsis statement, followed by supporting facts.
With a good outline in place, a collection of short stories, and a good purging of excessive details, you still must consider your own personality type. An introvert will never be an extravert and should not attempt to be. An engineer, doctor, accountant or scientist is naturally programmed to want to over share details. In essence, you must know your personality type and compensate for the things that could harm your presentation, while still being your authentic self.
Step three is to practice. Practice means standing in a room by yourself, with or without a mirror and with or without a video camera, and saying your presentation aloud. Start with the opening until you get it perfect. Next, work on your close. Once those are mastered, you can isolate each of the three points you want to make and work on each of them. Finally, you’ll put the parts together and practice the entire presentation, making sure you can appropriately fill your allotted time. While a mirror and video are not mandatory in practicing for a speech, they do improve your performance. If you are Media Training for a media interview, a video camera to record your mock interviews is mandatory.
The biggest mistake anyone can make is to either attempt to wing it without practice, or to simply practice the speech silently in your head, without actually vocalizing the words. Vocalizing helps you make sure you can clearly pronounce the words you have chosen. It also helps establish good cadence. In my book about Media Training (Don’t Talk to the Media Until ), I make the point that even if you only have 5 minutes before a media interview, you should use that time to practice. It will yield great benefits.
When the time finally comes to make your keynote, presentation or conduct your interview, your confidence will be higher because you are in control of the structure and the facts. If you are a natural introvert, don’t expect the jitters to go away completely. But you’ll be significantly better than you had ever hoped.