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Terrified to Talk

Terrified to Talk: The Fear of Public Speaking


Statistics and symptoms of Speech Anxiety and solutions to ease The Fear of Public Speaking

Terrified to Talk

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Public speaking is considered the greatest fear a person can have.  Some who have been called to speak in public act as if they’ve seen a ghost.  Pale stares, Sweating, and Nausea.  They are truly Terrified to Talk.

According to StatisticBrain.com and the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 75% of Americans are afraid of Public Speaking.  It’s called Glossophobia…and this anxiety is more common than the fear of darkness, spiders or even death.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that, “at a funeral, most people would rather be lying in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”

Even experienced speakers and trainers who have years of experience speaking in front of audiences still deal with this anxiety to a degree.

 

The Symptoms of Glossophobia

Symptoms of Glossophobia

Someone who is truly terrified to talk may suffer increased blood pressure and heartbeat, excessive sweating, stiffening of neck and upper back muscles, dry mouth, blanking out, memory loss, nausea and sometimes difficulty breathing.  Other symptoms are more subtle.

  • The fear of public speaking may arise early in childhood- in the classroom where the student nervously prays that the teacher doesn’t call on him to answer a question.  
  • It can happen in the workplace where the manager experiences panic attacks at the thought of making a presentation to her superiors. 
  • It can happen at home where the jobseeker becomes emotionally distraught before going on a job interview. 
  • It can happen at a party where the possibility of meeting someone new is curtailed by butterflies in the stomach and sweaty palms. 

Indeed, the fear of speaking in public causes countless people to miss out on academic, social, and career opportunities.

 

The Causes of Speech Anxiety

The Causes of Speech Anxiety

Psychologists and scientists agree that there’s no one specific cause for Speech Anxiety.  It affects everyone…everywhere.

  • It may manifest early in childhood, by a lack of interaction with one’s childhood family or friends.
  • Growing older, a lack of confidence and conviction in what one wants to say may cause hesitation and fear.
  • A self-consciousness or negative self-image about one’s looks or body posture. Subconscious concerns such as “am I too fat?” or “Do they like me?”
  • Similarly, an inferiority complex or low self-esteem developed over the years. This may have been caused by someone’s upbringing.
  • The fear that people may laugh based on a prior experience may cause hesitation.
  • Random thoughts and other priorities can lead to procrastination of practice…making a speech even more tricky and troublesome.
  • Someone may not want to take the time or effort to research the topic or write the speech. This laziness can create a very nervous speaker.
  • Any speech disorder like stammering or phonemic or articulation disorder can be a physical or psychological impediment to confident speaking.

Solutions & Resources

The thought of speaking in public can leave people frozen with fear. But thankfully, there are solutions and resources.  

Techniques to Reduce the Fear of Speaking

The first step is to know that you are not alone!  By applying these simple techniques, you can reduce your fear of speaking.

Techniques to Reduce Fear of Speaking

  • Preparing for a clear state of mind can reduce your fear by 10%.
  • Effective breathing techniques can reduce your anxiety by another 15%. 
  • And proper practice and rehearsal can build confidence and reduce your fear by about 75%.

Join a Speaking Organization or Club

 Join a Speaking Organization - Toastmasters

A great way to gain confidence and control when speaking is to join a public speaking organization.  With nearly 300,000 members, Toastmasters International is the most popular group, with thousands of chapters globally.

Hire a Speech Coach or Trainer 

hire-a-speech-coach-or-trainer

You can hire a Speech Coach or Trainer.  Executive Speech Coaches and Presentation Skills Trainers work in every major city. The Presentation Team provides solutions and resources for individuals or groups on-site or remotely.

Read Books & Self-Help Material

Read books and Self-Help Material about Speaking

There’s a vast amount of books and self-help materials focused on helping people conquer their fear of public speaking.  Three of my favorite books by colleagues are: 

  • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo
  • Simply Speaking by David Greenberg
  • Speak Tweaks by Jan Fox

Seek Medical or Holistic Treatment

Seek Medical Treatment for Phobias

Some people with more serious anxieties have found help from medical professionals; counselors and psychologists who can prescribe drugs such as beta blockers to temporarily treat their phobia.  Holistic treatments such as yoga and meditation or certain herbs can help calm the mind to give clarity and confidence when speaking.

Face Our Fears with Courage

Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it

Ultimately, how we conquer our fears depends on the courage we show.   It’s been said that “Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.”   If you or someone you know has a fear of public speaking, take the courageous step and face your fear.

Scary Presentations

Scary Presentations: 10 Ugly PowerPoint Slides


10 of the world’s scariest slides and pathetically bad PowerPoint presentations…and a few PowerPoint makeovers and redesigns just in time for Halloween.

Scary Presentations

Bullets kill. And so do bullet points…sucking the life out of audiences, who stare like zombies into the abyss of the grey and heartless projection screen while a mummy-like speaker recites mind-numbing paragraphs of text. So as the cool autumn winds blow, let’s open the crypt of ten of the world’s scariest presentations…and share a few magical potions to bring them back to life.

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#1. Is it a car?  Or is it an essay?

lamborghini-ugly-powerpoint-before

This full-screen muted photo of a Lamborghini is cluttered by five sentences of text explaining the definition of a car.  The audience doesn’t know whether to look at the car, the text, or the speaker,  Or simply look away in fright.

lamborghini-ugly-powerpoint-after

A fundamental fix is to eliminate the text completely- let the speaker talk about it- and create two slides.  Slide 1 features a simpler image of the car (a Lamborghini) while the speaker shares a basic definition, as explained in paragraph one.  Slide 2 features an illustration of the basic components of the car, as explained in paragraph two.

If the speaker didn’t want to eliminate the text entirely, the photos could be offset to the left, with the text offset on the right. 

 


 

#2. Strong Brand…Scary Slide! 

horrible-powerpoint-bullseye-before

Hopefully, this company’s business strategy is a lot better than their presentations.  In the early days of PowerPoint, someone created this curdling mix of arrows, text and a target to explain how 10 elements could target 6 key audiences.

horrible-powerpoint-bullsye-after

Granted, this image is nearly 15 years old, created long before the ease of Smart-Art graphics.  This was one of my very first slide redesigns…and I saw the immediate need to simplify and minimize.  I started by creating a simple template using the company’s brand colors of red and black. In the center, I placed a photo of an actual bullseye.  And around the bullseye- instead of angry arrows- I worked in Photoshop to create iconic ovals with superimposed text. The slide’s text and message remained the same. 

 


 

#3. A Potpourri of Praise

busy-powerpoint-slide-2-letters

This potpourri of praise may turn a few heads…away!  Letters of reference can be helpful in winning a project…but cramming them all one slide is hardly helpful when showcasing success.  This construction company’s slide features a mauve/purple gradient background blended with a faded group of schoolgirls.  Two recommendation letters in opposite corners are impossible to read…so they’re transcribed in text.  But the Times New Roman font is hard to read, even with key words emphasized in yellow.  The skinny arrows are meaningless in connecting the letters to the text.

testimonial-letters

In the redesign of this reference slide, we scanned the actual letters and placed them on two separate pages, angled for depth and improved positioning.  A magnified section of the letter showcased the key phrase or message, eliminating the need for manually-entered text.

 


 

#4. Bombs bursting in air

4-walls-before

This speaker was hell-bent on grabbing his audience’s attention.  His stark black background was juxtaposed against a fireworks explosion and an outdated restaurant.  The blood red text with yellow shadows made the audience feel as if they were in a McDonald’s war-zone.  

4-walls-after-a

Taming this terror is relatively simple.  A quick fix is applying a light beige gradient and inserting a photo of a restaurant with an angled picture style effect.  The text becomes black and moves to the top of the slide, with keywords emphasized in green. 

4-walls-after-b

Another approach to subdue the shriek of the slide is to deviate from the template and filling the background with a full page image of a restaurant interior.  Image blur and desaturation effects applied.  The message is prominent and dominant, with the critical “Inside the Four Walls” message showcased with a 3D text effect to illustrate depth and dimension.  

 


 

#5. Toxic Snake. Toxic Slide.

viper-presentation-before

Like the venomous Viper snake, this slide the Veterans In Pursuit of Educational Readiness (VIPER) program for Warren County Community College is also toxic.  Teeming with text and pouring over with patriotism, the three key bullets on this slide are little more than a script for the speaker or a handout for the audience.   

viper-presentation-after

A refreshing redesign of the slide splits the three bullets into three separate pages.  The patriotic flair is conveyed in a subdued, red and blue bottom arc created in Photoshop and set against a sandy-white textured gradient background.  The VIPER logo is integrated in the top right, and three square academic images carry the iconic military-academic theme.  The three slides each feature a prominent image of a student or service member, providing an ardent amount of breathing space.

 


 

#6. As boring as the subject

bad-ifc-slide-before

This insurance company’s gloomy slide might as well feature a decrepit homeless person.  The ominous navy background with its heavy black text against a fuzzy pie-chart does little to inspire someone to purchase their plan.  The red title sends a subconscious message of warning! 

ifc-slide-after

The presentation’s redesign is a breath of fresh air.  A light and flowing light green and white background features a green subtle element from the company’s logo.  All four major bullets have been converted to iconic graphics featuring bold white text with a black border and shadow.

 


 

#7. Scary surgery…and slides

quest-powerpoint-slide-bad

Blood tests and surgery can be frightening…and so is the uninspired layout of this slide.  Five unequally-sized rectangles all linked by anemic arrows to an oval in the middle showcase the role of diagnostic testing.  The images are busy and hard to see, as are the tiny Arial subheadlines.  The flat blue background may put the audience into a trance. 

quest-powerpoint-slide-good

The redesigned PowerPoint slide features five equally sized rounded-rectangles with clear dominant images, defined by Larger-sized subheadlines in Calibri.  A transparent clipped PNG graphic of a scientist on the bottom left sends a message for the entire slide of science and medicine.  The background is a textured blue angled-line image from Crystal Graphics and edited in Photoshop.  A White rectangle block at the top adds contrast and provides space for a concise title and logo.

 


 

#8. NSA Security Breach reveals holes in PowerPoint design

prism-powerpoint-slide-bad

There were many harrowing things about the National Security Association PRISM leak – but to Paris-based designer Emiland De Cubber, the most horrible revelation was how awful their PowerPoint design was. Breaking nearly every fundamental rule of presentation design blended pastel colors, tiny type, and overwhelming amounts of information on its plain white background.  

prism-powerpoint-slide-good

DeCubber stepped up and redesigned several PRISM slides.  His philanthropic feat was showcased in Fast Company, as well at http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/whats-with-prisms-awful-powerpoint/#ixzz2hA3kvrsl

 


 

#9. Simply complex

worst-powerpoint-slide

This PowerPoint slide is the winner of the InFocus 2011 Worst Slide Contest.  It features a mix of text, headlines, arrows, schematics, and directions.  Normally, a viewer can grasp the core message of a slide, but this complex and convoluted message spooks the audience. 

Even if we could even understand what this slide’s core message was about, the slide could be split into at least 3 or 4 separate pages.  A textured background, a clean and simple headline and plenty of white space would help simplify the core message and make this presentation more pleasing.

 


 

#10. The enemy is…PowerPoint

afghan-stability-ugly-powerpoint

Featured in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?_r=0) in October 2010, this PowerPoint slide became a catalyst for change in the presentation industry.  Designed to portray the complexity of the American military strategy in Kabul, Afghanistan, this scary PowerPoint slide prompted General Stanley McChrystal to wryly remark to laughter and applause, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”

The slide demonstrated the mind-numbing strategy of PowerPoint, encouraging many to think outside the box and create more dynamic and compelling messages.

So the next time you see an ugly presentation, consider these opportunities to rise it from the dead.

A Smart Start to Your PowerPoint Presentation

A Smart Start to Your PowerPoint Presentation

A Smart Start to Your PowerPoint Presentation

Tips and strategies to help develop your PowerPoint presentations easier, faster, and with fewer headaches.

Start Your Presentation Right To Save It From Going Wrong

Are you a presentation procrastinator? A PowerPoint put-offer? A stalled sleepless speaker? Let’s face it: most people dread developing presentations. But with a little planning and proactive thinking, you can make your next PowerPoint or Keynote presentation fun, fast, and fearsome!

Content First (Visuals later)

When starting a new presentation, try not to become distracted by the desire to make it look good. Picking the perfect template and finding great graphics can eat-up precious time (Presentation Time Management). Your presentation is more about your message than it is about your graphics.  So, at first, focus on creating the content.  Look at yourself as a scriptwriter in a movie.  With a blank PowerPoint file, you can use PowerPoint’s Outline View to get your bullets and main points in place. 

If you’re still stymied over what to say, talk over the ideas/themes with friends and colleagues. Or Draft a storyboard on paper. Sometimes just extemporaneously talking about your presentation can help get some of your presentation structure in place.  

Design for your Audience

Look at the presentation through the eyes and ears of your audience.  Select or create a presentation design that’s appropriate for your audience: are they young or old? Colorful or conservative? The colors you use should be compatible with the company’s brand/image. The number of people in the audience affects how large the type should be on screen and how much information should be crammed together. 

Don’t Design It…Find It!

Use Creative Resources to your advantage.  It’s easier than ever to find great graphics online for your presentation.  So many times, I’ve seen people who have a design concept and spend many many hours (or dollars) to design an image that ke

Invest the time to create an intelligent Slide Master

The slide master’s purpose is to let you make a global change — such as replacing the font style — and have that change reflected on all the slides in your presentation. By creating a master slide and various layouts, you can make holistic revisions to the presentation quickly, rather than page-by-page.  An intelligent Slide Master should have pre-defined colors, fonts, and transitions.

Plan ahead of your Deadlines

Before starting your presentation, it’s important to have an idea of how much work is involved in developing the presentation…and how much time it will take. Set benchmarks and goals throughout the development period. Aim to finish the presentation a day ahead of schedule.

Know your Presentation Venue and Output Medium

Are you presenting in a large auditorium or in a small group? Will your presentation be shown on paper, projected, or laptop-based? Will it be Widescreen or 4:3?  Shown on the web or distributed on tablets or phones?  These questions are vital to help determine the appropriate fonts, sizing, and spacing. Try to preview the presentation venue beforehand to get a better idea of how your show will look.  Or create your presentation for multiple mediums to make sure everyone has a version they can see.

Really Very Bad Storm

Really Very Bad: 5 Tips to Strengthen Our Speaking


By eliminating Weak Words from our language, we can strengthen our speeches with stronger adjectives to appear more educated, professional, and effective.

Use stronger adjectives to appear more educated, professional, and effective.

Really Very Bad StormBack in 2010 I was living in South Florida and a tropical storm was heading our way.  I tuned to the news and caught a weather reporter and his call of warning to us.  “A Very Bad Storm” was coming our way.  Very bad storm.  “Very bad.”  It was as if he was talking to a child. We prepared and the “very bad” storm passed without incident, rather dull and diluted, much like the forecaster’s description. 

And yet, everywhere, all the time, people are diluting their descriptions with weak words and ambivalent adjectives.  Not to be an elitist editor, but these Weak Words could have been poignantly enhanced with a simple infusion of an adjective.

Indeed, they can be irritating, unnecessary, convey a message of lack of strength in speaking…and ultimately detract from the message. By eliminating these weak words…we can strengthen our speaking.  By injecting “amplified adjectives” we can add meaning to our message and wizardry to our writings.

Let’s take a look at some of these flaky fluffy filler weak words that we hear out there.

Very…Really…Like…Good…You Know…Okay…

Weak Words

I believe as speakers and communicators, we should aim for a higher standard.   Strive for what I call “Amplified Adjectives”.  I’m not saying that all our words should be potent and powerful, but our language is so full with flowery words, we can paint a rich tapestry with our spoken stories simply by injecting a few colorful adjectives.

Eliminate Unncessary Words

Or sometimes, we can eliminate words entirely…and our speaking and writing becomes stronger.  They’re called Pleonasms!  A pleonasm is a word or phrase which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning:   “Let me be honest with you”

For example, in “Hunting Down The Pleonasm”, ‘down’ is pleonastic. Cut it and the meaning of the sentence does not alter.

Many words are used pleonastically: ‘just’, ‘that’ and ‘actually’ are three frequently-seen culprits.

“I actually just know that he’s the killer” can be trimmed to “I know he’s the killer”, and phrases like ‘more or less’ and ‘in any shape or form’ are redundant.

Here are 5 Tips to Eliminate Weak Words in Your Speaking

  1. Listen Carefully.

  2. Record your speech and listen critically.

  3. Solicit feedback from trusted colleagues.

  4. Work to replace ordinary adjectives in your speech.

  5. Join Toastmasters and Find a mentor (to guide and coach you).

 Ultimately, by adding richer adjectives into your language, you’ll come across more educated, professional, and effective.  

Secrets to Writing Great Headlines and Brief Bullets

Secrets to Writing Great Headlines and Brief Bullets in PowerPoint

Secrets to Writing Great Headlines and Brief Bullets

PowerPoint Users: Discover how to write headlines beyond flat fragments of fluff and boring bullets of blah for maximum presentation impact and authority.

Ha! You’re looking at this article!  Chances are it was because of a compelling headline.  Our eyes are naturally drawn to words of intrigue and curiosity.  A title of “PowerPoint headline and bullet writing” might not have been as compelling.  Headlines and bullets- whether in PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi- should hold that same eye-catching intrigue if you’re looking for you and your presentations to stand-out and be remembered.  

 

Listen & Look

Listen and Look

There are great examples of headlines all around us in all mediums; succulent enticing text that compel us to tune-in, read-on, or click here.  Pay attention to the topics that grab you…and aim for the same attention-getting power in your presentation headlines.  It may seem corny at first, but you’ll soon see more heads looking at you and the screen, than down looking at their cell phone or clock.

 

Think like a Tweeter

Think Like a Tweeter

Twitter is a great tool to gain insights into headline writing; short simple statements of intrigue in under 160 characters.  Adopt a similar strategy, aiming for fewer than 10 words in your presentation headlines.

 

A Head-Turning Headline:Catchy, Curious, & Compelling

A Head Turning Headline

When building a presentation, it maybe helpful to write-out a title that’s a simple basic fragmented sentence, or just a few words.  But head-turning titles are Catchy, Curious and Compelling.  They catch your eye, making you think and compelling you to want to know more.

Ask a question.  Write a provocative statement.  Tell them why they should listen or read-on.  Short conversational words are best, eliminating any jargon or ambiguity.  The headline can either stand-alone, or be supported by bullets and/or graphics.

 

Write Like an SEO Guru

Write Like an SEO Guru

Presentation headlines should be written similar to how a website blog headline would be written:  a short, compelling statement aimed at generating clicks and readership.  For presentations, aim to answer the viewer’s underlying interest in solving a problem or getting more information. Or – as in the case above- work to consolidate the top-level bullet with the headline.

Ask yourself:  “If someone in my audience was searching for this slide, what would they search for?”  Write your headline with that search concept in mind with fundamental keywords in the title.

This is especially helpful if you’re creating a presentation for an external audience, and placing the presentation online.  Your presentation will have a good chance of appearing in Google if the headline and presentation titles are reflective of what your audience is searching for.

 

Headlines summarize the slide

Headlines Summarize the Slide

Headlines are the high-level story of the presentation. In business presentations, executives often scan the presentation for keywords and takeaway points.  Well-written headlines should guide the reader along through the presentation summarizing each page, distilling the supporting bullets or detail, and weaving a compelling story.  This is especially important if there’s no presenter, or if the presentation is a standalone or printed deck.

In the example above the first version (Before) has a neutral headline “Safety Record.” The updated headline is more active and summarizes the charted data and information.

Fragmented sentence headlines (“Introduction”), while easy to write, do little to hook the audience and tell the story.  But it’s best to aim for full-sentences of summation in the headlines of your presentation. You may, however, wish to use fragments or key words “Intro, example 1, etc.” for presentation sections or topic slides.

Some business presentations use takeaway messages, summarizing messages usually at the bottom of a page.  Try to merge the title and takeaway points; you’ll have a cleaner, more open-spacious presentation with a more focused message.  Less is more.

Don’t repeat the headline in the body of your slide.

The text or bullets of the presentation should support the slide headline…not duplicate it!  Aim to keep your bullets brief and supportive of the slide’s headline, using similar- but not identical- words.

 

Fragment your bullets

Fragment Your Bullets

Just as we aim to write short simple sentences for our headlines, we should aim to keep our bullets simple and concise also.  But, unlike the titles where a short sentence is our goal, our goal in a solid bullet is a concise sentence fragment. There’s no need for a full in-depth sentence, especially if the presentation will be delivered by a speaker.

Aim to ditch most modifiers including extra adjectives, adverbs and action words.  But look for ways to say the same message in fewer words.  

 

Avoid all unnecessary words that you can find to help make the page more appealing and easier to understand*.

(Avoid All Unnecessary Words)

*This headline above can be edited to three words:  “Avoid unnecessary words.”

Repeatedly read through the presentation with a critical eye.  What can be eliminated?  Merged?  Restated more simply? Call on a friend or collague for assistance; eventually you’ll start writing short potent headlines perfectly.

No Orphans

No Orphans

Whenever you see one lovebird, you usually see another; these friends of a feather always flock together.  Similarly, aim to avoid single-item bullets.  Called “orphans” these one bullet items usually indicate another bullet is nearby.  Indeed, one bullet demands a second bullet (that’s why they’re called bullets). 

On single-item points, aim to combine the item with the topic/headline. Or remove the bullet symbol and keep the text as a subpoint of the main point.

“The Presentation” should not be viewed as document, but rather a graphical medium to help underscore key messages.  Through regular practice of reviewing your presentation, you’ll find opportunities to trim the text and say more with less…leaving the text to the paper.

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