We have one person in our office that must have been born with the skills, talent, and ability to be a total extrovert and give a speech or presentation at the drop of a hat. However, according to a human resource survey reported in 2005, approximately 15% of employed persons are highly apprehensive about communicating orally in organizational settings. Practically everyone - about 85% of the population, in fact - experiences "stage fright" when they give a speech.
Another person in our office, we'll have to call him "Joe," was pretty near the bottom of that 85%. He was probably one of the 5% of us who have an excessive and debilitating fear of speaking in public.
Realizing this could affect his career from moving forward, he decided he needed to do something. Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players," but if we're not pretty good players, then we may face missed business opportunities, lost clients, being passed over for promotions. Any of these occurrences can cost us tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars over a career. So, our "Joe" went for help to acting professionals who teach transferring performance skills to the business arena, and it really made a difference.
I know of two places in Houston, Texas where they have acting classes to help the business person; "Joe" went to the Houston Academy of Dramatic Arts (www.hadaedu.org) and Lasater Training (www.barbaralasater.com). Most cities of any size have acting schools which also offer lessons for business people who do presenting or any public speaking. Hopefully, you can find someone in your city if you need this type of training. Until then, the following tips should help improve your presentation skills:
- Practice: Okay it's just like learning to play the piano, practice, practice, practice, but it's surprising how many people don't practice in front of a mirror or in front of friends.Visualize: See yourself successfully presenting to a pleased audience, and visualize your audience as just people no different than you. That's who they are.Know your material: This one should be obvious, but many people simply don't prepare their material and then have stage fright because they feel unprepared. Go figure.Focus on one idea that's usable: All your audience really wants is to walk away with something they can use. Relax: If you are at ease your audience will be at ease.Use resources: A good Flash or PowerPoint presentation can make your presentation more interesting and make your job easier.
What will, of course, do the most good is real training, at an acting school or somewhere else, that incorporates practice before class audiences and develops skills such as voice control and body movement. "Joe" is now able to present at work and at networking events with the poise of Tom Cruise.