On the 22nd September 2011, I made my first appearance on a stage at OMN London alongside Mike Essex where we presented our tactics for dominating page one of the search results for a brand. If you had asked me six months ago whether I would have done something like this, the answer would have been a definite NO! However, I overcame my fears and stood up in front of approximately 300 people with an interest in digital marketing and presented to them.
From speaking to people in the industry over the past three years, public speaking is a fear of many people and I wanted to put together this post to share some of my thoughts and tell you how I went about combating that fear in 15 steps.
1) Get in an Expert
My first thought when I started thinking about getting some of the Koozai team up on stage presenting was that none of us had done anything on such a scale previously. With this in mind, I set about looking for an expert with a proven track record of giving training to companies in the digital space. Being in digital marketing, I thought I would see what response I got from Twitter. Alan Donaghan from Enjoy Presenting was recommended to me by a couple of people who I follow, so straight away, this gave me that recognition that I needed.
Alan has done many presenting sessions with multiple companies including Microsoft and I can recommend him on behalf of the team at Koozai as he really did help us with our presenting skills and calming our nerves!
2) Watch videos of others presenting
One tip that Alan asked us to do was to go away and spend some time watching other people’s presentations on YouTube. These didn’t need to be from experts in our industry sector, we just needed to take the time to watch the different ways that people present. From this you learn a lot and my recommendation would be to watch presentations on things that interest you and also things that don’t. This will allow you to measure your own engagement with the speaker and how long they manage to capture your attention for.
3) Compile a list of likes and dislikes
Following this, make a list of all the things that you disliked about each of the presentations you watched. When we started doing this in one of our training sessions, there were five of us from the Koozai team and initially the dislikes didn’t flow very quickly but we soon got going and pretty much tore over 50 presentations apart and came up with a long list of things we didn’t like.
This really puts you in the mindset of things to avoid when you start public speaking and out of everything, I think this was what helped me the most. Being able to ascertain what I didn’t like pushed me to concentrate on avoiding any such issues.
To make it even easier, alongside your list of dislikes you can put in the opposite so rather than telling yourself not to do something, you are giving yourself a suggestion of what you could do to make it better.
My top five dislikes were:
4) Try different presenting methods
Before jumping up on stage in front of a live audience, I found it extremely useful to try out presenting in different environments by doing videos for our website, online webinars and holding company meetings.
Out of the four types of speaking I have done, I can honestly say that presenting to the live audience was the easiest (and trust me, I never thought I would say that!).
Doing a video was the most daunting as it was just me and a camera. I think my first video took well over 30 attempts to get it right and I was still far from happy with the outcome.
Next up was the online webinar. Now this I thought wouldn’t be too difficult but talking into a phone and not being able to gauge the audiences response to you was tricky. Additionally, you are totally unaware of exactly how many people are listening in to you while you are doing the presentation. It could be one person or it could be three thousand!
Finally, feeling comfortable standing up in company meetings was my next goal. Others have told me that standing up in front of a small group of people is harder than a large group and now that I have done both, I would totally agree!
By covering all the above before getting on stage in front of a large audience, I had been able to practice and learn from my nerves and improve on things.
5) Decide on your niche
No one can be a jack of all trades, especially in the world of digital marketing as there is such a vast array of topics that need to be covered. We all have something that we particularly enjoy or are good at and finding that niche will allow you to become immersed and really own it.
6) Brainstorm topics
Once you have decided on your niche, the most challenging task is to come up with something that you want to talk about that people want to hear. Brainstorm ideas and then look around online to make sure that your ideas haven’t already been covered before. There is nothing worse than sitting through a presentation which is covering content that has been discussed at a previous conference or is widely known and understood.
The next thing to do once you have decided on what you want to present is to actually find somewhere to present it. As a first time speaker it can be hard to get a speaking slot, so networking at previous events and getting to know the organisers will really help you.
When you do apply, the application form will often ask you to detail why you should be chosen to present at that conference/seminar and this is where you really need to sell yourself and the topic that you are presenting. Make the organisers want to watch you!
8) Prepare presentation
I could go into so much detail about the preparation that needs to be done to get a presentation right but that is either a whole other blog post or something that Alan Donaghan can help you with. We all learnt so much from him about how to make a presentation compelling, engaging, fun, interesting, different and informative, the list is endless!
Top tips though…. Less is More…..Images and Text………Lists are Great….Give Something Away!!!
9) Practice, Practice, Practice
Do not think that you are by any means good enough to rock up at a presentation without doing any practice. You wouldn’t see Jude Law turning up for a film shoot without learning his lines first or understanding the storyline behind the movie, and presenting is no different.
The old saying ‘Practice makes perfect’ is very true and should not be forgotten. I am not saying that you should go and learn your presentation word for word but you do need to know the order of the slides and have a good idea of what you want to say.
This may sound silly, but I stood in my bedroom running through my presentation watching my body language to see whether I was doing any of the things that I had written down as my dislikes. It helped me to get used to seeing myself presenting and getting my body language right.
10) Film yourself
Earlier on in this post, I spoke about trying out different methods of presenting before jumping on stage. Once you have your presentation lined up, film yourself actually doing it, watch yourself back and write down what you want to change. It is also a good idea to get others who know you to watch it as they know how you are naturally and can point out anything you are doing that is deterring from your normal day to day personality.
11) Get others to watch you
Once you are confident with what you are going to present and you have worked on your body language, now is the time to get a small group of people together and present it to them. Ask them to write down anything they see you doing that they don’t like and likewise, also give you feedback on what they did like.
This gives you the opportunity to practice in front of a live audience (remember, the smaller the audience, the harder it is) who can give you feedback before the big day.
12) Ask for an experts opinion
Alan was great throughout the whole build up towards our presentation and was on hand when we needed him to look through our slides and give us feedback. If you do get public speaking training, I would recommend breaking down the course in three or four sessions rather than spending a whole day or two condensing everything in. The benefit of breaking it down over a couple of months allows you to practice in between and get continuous feedback from your trainer on how you are improving.
13) Update presentation
Based on the feedback you receive from the live audience, friends, family and work colleagues and the public speaking expert you can now go back and update your presentation to streamline the content and make it more engaging.
When Mike and I first put together our presentation for OMN London, it looked completely different to how it looked by the time we actually presented it. This was based on the feedback that we received so make sure you ask for people’s opinions.
14) Practice, Practice, Practice
The above 13 points may seem like practising and in a way it is but the practice I am talking about here is for the actual final presentation that you are going to be doing live! I find nothing more annoying when I am watching a presentation and the speaker has not prepared.
As I said earlier, I wouldn’t recommend rehearsing the whole thing word for word but you need to know the order of your slides and be able to talk around the content/images that you are showing.
15) GO FOR IT!!!!
On the day of my presentation, I got some tips from a friend of mine in the industry, Bas van den Beld, who has done countless talks to different sized groups. His tips included:
a) Breathe through your nose if you get nervous as it calms you down
b) Find a place on stage that you feel most comfortable in and when ever you get nervous during the presentation, return to that spot
c) Face the audience and avoid turning round to look at the slides
d) Remember that you know more about your presentation than the audience and they are there to see you and what you have to say
The first 60 seconds of getting up on stage were the toughest for me and I am sure that came across but once I got going and could see that people were actually looking at me and seemed interested, I relaxed and really enjoyed myself.
All in all, the evening was a huge success and Mike and I both got lots of good feedback from people in the audience which has really helped with boosting our confidence. We are both very eager to do more talks now so on the lookout for other opportunities as they come up!