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The speaker’s fear of the audience

    Dieter had already not slept well last night, because he had to remember that he was supposed to give his big speech exercise on the coming school day. He had been preparing diligently for days, because he knew that the teacher placed great importance on her students being able to express themselves well and – this was what gave him a particular headache – especially speaking freely.
    What can Dieter do to get a handle on this fear of speaking?
    Many people are afraid of speaking in front of a large group. In addition, for students, giving such speeches is always something like a small exam situation at the same time. Out of fear of doing something wrong, the text is often completely formulated during preparation and then read off as quickly as possible, which is torture not only for teachers but also for fellow students.
    In the long run, this fear of “public speaking” can only be lowered by experience, i.e., one must learn to endure this anxiety-provoking situation better and better from lecture to lecture. You should also think for a moment whether you are not perhaps wasting too much energy on being afraid that something could go wrong 😉
    Giving presentations is a skill that can only be learned by giving presentations, although it is also helpful to observe classmates or speakers carefully beforehand. Also, by listening and watching, you can learn what tricks they use, what resonates with the audience and what does not.
    First, develop a good guide in the form of a “cheat sheet.” On this, however, you should only write down key words so that you are not tempted to read off what you have written. You should always use such a “red thread” for orientation, writing everything large and legibly so that you can find your way around at a glance.
    It is also helpful to hold one or more “dress rehearsals” – first perhaps in front of the assembled teddy bears, then in front of the mirror or a friend. During rehearsals, you should really speak out loud, because only then will you notice where you still have difficulties. You can also record your performance with a tape recorder or video recorder, and you will usually quickly notice what still needs improvement in your performance. During rehearsals, you should always time yourself, because you know from experience that things often go a little faster during the “real performance” than during rehearsals.
    Graphic elements such as pictures, overviews and tables, which can be presented using overhead transparencies or PowerPoint, help to make facts clearer and easier to understand. They bring variety and thus promote the attention of the listeners. Such elements are also useful because they help to organize thoughts or simply to take a breather.
    Immediately before the presentation, you should try to relax, in no case frantically go through everything again. It is also helpful to make sure that all the equipment you need is working properly before the presentation.
    At the beginning of a presentation, one should adopt a friendly facial expression and let one’s gaze wander around the class, breathing calmly and evenly. One must also be aware that what is obvious to oneself, e.g. a slight tremor in the voice, is usually hardly noticed by others.
    Special care should be taken with the introductory words in order to create a safe “springboard” for the presentation. If you choose a good introduction with an interesting story, a significant statistic, a surprising fact or an interesting question, you can draw the attention of the audience to the topic. You can also keep this up by repeatedly making eye contact with some classmates.

    It is also useful to have a clock in sight to know if you are “on time” – you should therefore consider in advance which sections you might be able to omit from your presentation. You should always take a pen with you, for example to point to the overhead transparencies, or to record your classmates’ questions during the discussion afterwards.
    One should speak slowly, loudly and clearly and emphasize important points. Technical terms and foreign words used must be pronounced correctly and also explained. Short pauses from time to time create something like paragraphs in the flow of the speech and are also experienced as positive by the listeners. Sometimes you can break up a longer lecture by involving your classmates in the lecture by asking a specific question.
    One should conclude each presentation with a summary, an intelligent closing remark, or a question, and thus perhaps stimulate a discussion.
    After the presentation, there should be a silent hour to reflect on what went well and what might be done better in the next presentation.

    See also “How to prepare anchor points“!