Fear Not: A Masterclass in the Art of Public Speaking

When it comes to a fear of public speaking – it appears you’re not alone.

Border Cafe’s Rhiannon Veness attended a Young Business Edge Presentation Masterclass in Albury and shares her key take-aways for ‘presentation perfection’.

“Can you give a presentation next week?” is one of the most terrifying questions a manager can ask.

Standing in front of a room full of people to talk about the latest budget forecasts, how the marketing campaign performed or pitching for new business is something that many of us will actively try to avoid during our careers.

So many of us have a fear of public speaking that it’s second only to a fear of flying. While we can choose to drive on our next holiday, saying, “Sorry, boss, I’m too scared,” probably won’t help the next time we’re up for a performance review or pay rise.

“Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, presentations are a necessary evil, and for some of us, it starts long before we enter the business world”

I can’t even begin to remember how many presentations I had to give during my time at university. Almost every subject had a public speaking component, designed to help us prepare for life after study where we would be expected to give presentations on a regular basis.

Despite this focus on helping us prepare for the real world, none of my subjects offered any guidance on how to prepare an engaging presentation that I felt confident in giving and that my audience got some type of value out of.

Aside from the standard time limits, use a PowerPoint and dress nicely, there was very little direction given on how to deliver an impactful, results focused presentation that delivered the messages it needed to in a way that would be well-received. Or if there was, I was too stressed about having to give a presentation that I glossed right over it, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Since graduating, I’ve presented data and research to colleagues and managers, created presentations for others to give, interviewed for jobs, asked for pay rises, pitched new marketing ideas, lead training sessions and attended networking events – all with varying degrees of success.

These are all scenarios that many of us will encounter during our careers no matter what industry we work in. How much better it would it be to give presentations and feel confident that what you are trying to communicate has a greater chance of being received the way it was intended?

At the recent Young Business Edge event held at Atura, I learned that I definitely wasn’t alone in my desire to improve my presenting skills.

As part of YBE’s professional development series, they hosted a presentation masterclass with communications and leadership coach, Andrew Kirk. Andrew is no stranger to the Border, having worked for a local radio station before stints at Network TEN and living and working overseas at a global public relations firm.

Young Business Edge and Albury Northside Chamber of Commerce committee members with leadership coach, Andrew Kirk. Andrea Bradley, Chris Greenhow, Rebecca Pegg, Alex Berry, Andrew Kirk, Tom Weldon, Jennifer Bevis & Pete Whitbourn.

Speaking to a packed room, Andrew’s presentation itself was a lesson in how to give a killer presentation.

He was confident, charismatic and really understood what we were all trying to get out of the evening. He took us through tips and tricks for creating intent-driven and impactful presentations. Try as I might to keep up with everything he said, there were a few key themes that stuck out for me.

Mind over matter

For me the simplest messages of the night were the most powerful – keep a positive mindset that the audience wants you to succeed.

While I always volunteered to give presentations during university, I secretly hated it. I felt they were such a waste of time and that I’d much rather write an essay or develop a 20-page marketing plan and be done. I made the process so much harder on myself because I kept a negative mindset.

Knowing that the power to make the most out of the situation ultimately lies in your hands and gives you the ability to take control and do well.

Body language is more important than what you say

Another interesting fact from the night was that people remember roughly two per cent of what you say during a presentation. So, what will they remember? They will remember your confidence and how you held yourself and how you deliver your message.

This is a skill we can use in any situation, not just formal presentations. The way you perfect this is by following the next step…

Practice what you preach

Andrew’s passion for communication shone throughout the 90-minute session and he genuinely cared about what the audience walked away with at the end of the night.

In speaking with him afterwards, he told me that research from the United States shows that people with better presentation skills stand out more in the workplace and are likely to be paid more.

“So how do you get better at presenting? Practice.”

Get out your smartphone, record yourself two or three times, and then do it all over again. Understand what your audience is seeing when they are watching you so you can be sure that you’re getting your message across.

While we can’t be responsible for how our message is received, we are responsible for the delivery and giving it the best possible chance to be heard in the way we intended it.

The best part of all? I walked away from the evening feeling like I had gained valuable and practical insight into something that I had always just fumbled my way through before.

This was just one of a few YBE events that I’ve gone to over the past 18 months and the first of their masterclass series that I’ve attended. The committee members have done a lot of research into what young professionals in Albury-Wodonga need to make the most out of the businesses opportunities available to them. Every event that I have been to has been very relaxed and welcoming – a far cry from some networking events I’ve attended in Sydney and other major cities.

Their events are designed to empower young professionals in the workplace and the presentation masterclass delivered on that promise. YBE has one more masterclass to finish out the series, happening in October. Details for this are still being finalised, but from what I’ve been told it’s one not to miss.

Head to the YBE page on the Albury Northside Chamber of Commerce website, or find them on Facebook to keep an eye on their upcoming events.