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Delivering Dynamic Presentations - Dealing with Anxiety
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Introduction - What is anxiety?

Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety (n) as:

-a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome

Some synonyms for anxiety are: fear, concern, apprehension

Many people feel anxious when they have to speak or do a presentation in front of people and there are several reasons for this. This lesson will discuss some reasons why anxiety is so common amongst people who must speak publicly. It will also introduce the most effective strategies for reducing and/or controlling it.

Part 1:

Study the following two vocabulary items then watch Jerry Seinfeld, a famous American comedian, tell a joke about public speaking fear.

  • casket (coffin): a long, narrow box in which a dead body is buried
  • eulogy: a speech or piece of writing that praises someone who has just died

Source: Jerry Seinfeld, I’m Telling You for the Last Time @
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Why Are People Anxious about Public Speaking?

In the above video, Seinfeld makes a humorous observation about the anxiety most people feel when having to present or speak in public. As he observes, most people fear it so much that they would rather be dead than speak in front of others!

But why is this? What causes most people to feel anxious before speaking in front of other people? Listen to the insights of the experienced public speaker in the next video, then answer the questions below.

Video @ Actualized (You Tube.com)

Source: Actualized.org @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3fd5xbExb4

Task 1: Check all the reasons for fear of public speaking given by the speaker in the first two minutes of the above video.

1. lack of preparation
2. they may feel embarrassed
3. disorganization
4. they may make mistakes
5. they may feel rejected
6. the audience will not accept them
7. lack of intelligence
8. they may be afraid of saying something foolish
9. they may not be accepted by audience members
10. they may not be able to make friends
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Do the reasons mentioned by the speaker in the previous video seem familiar to you? Did he mention some of the anxieties you feel when you need to speak or present in public? If so, don’t worry because you are not alone! And the really good news is that anxieties about public speaking can and have been overcome by many people who at first felt terrible feelings of anxiety but now speak confidently and comfortably in front of others every day. You can do it too! Just carefully watch and listen to the advice and techniques in the videos below, and with careful preparation and practice, you will feel that you too are positively dealing with your public speaking anxieties.

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Nothing Builds Confidence like Proper Preparation

Experienced public speakers know the importance of preparing, fine-tuning and practicing FULLY and OFTEN before making a speech or presentation and the confidence that being well-prepared and practising brings. On the contrary, inexperienced presenters often feel nervous because they have not prepared, fine-tuned or rehearsed their presentation thoroughly enough. The importance of thorough preparation and practice cannot be overstated! It is a crucial step in feeling confident in public speaking. Thorough preparation, fine-tuning and practice fosters confidence because:

  • You will remember better what you need to say
  • Your presentation becomes more intuitive and instinctual
  • Your audience will know that you are doing your best and be engaged by your presentation

Experienced speakers also know the importance of OVER-PREPARATION. This means that you should not stop practising just because you did it well once, or you think it is ‘good enough’. You are only truly ready when you have fine-tuned and practised it well so many times that you are starting to feel tired of it, then revise and practise a few more times. That is when you will know that you will deliver a dynamic presentation confidently with little anxiety.

Now watch the next video about the importance of thorough preparation of speeches and presentations.

Video @ Alan Matthews (You Tube.com)

Source: Alan Mathews @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDeVFNsn80o

Task 2a: Watch the first 2 minutes of this video and read along with the audio script. Then answer the question below.

     ‘Hello. This is Alan Mathews. Here’s a sight you won’t see very often: me with a paint brush in my hand ready to do some decorating. I hate decorating. And there is no coincidence that I am not very good at it either. One of the reasons that I am not very good at decorating is that I haven’t got the patience and I won’t do the work I am supposed to do to make a good job of it. In fact, I’d rather pay somebody else to do it, which is what I usually do, fortunately. So if there is a big paint job to do, you won’t see me doing it; I get someone else to do it because I know I’m not going to do a good job.

      Now what’s the difference? Well, I got a decorator in recently to do a big paint job on my house and it took him I think about three days. And it wasn’t until about the third day, he actually started to do some painting. In fact it got to the point where I thought, ‘When is he actually going to do it? What’s he doing with all his time?’ Of course what was he doing? He was preparing. So whenever I looked to see what he was up to, he was scrubbing down the paint work, sanding things, cleaning it, getting all the dust off, making sure the surfaces were absolutely perfect before he put any paint on at all.

      Now of course what would I do in that situation? …because I would just want to get it done and get back out. I’d just go in and start putting the paint on straight away…get the job done as quickly as I could. But of course, you can see the difference in the end result.

Presentations, speeches are a lot like that; if you have to give a presentation, or a talk, YOU’VE GOT TO DO THE PREPARATION.’

  1. Which sentence best summarizes Alan’s message in this part of the video? Choose one answer only.
    1. Alan hates painting because he is not very good at it.
    2. Alan is not a patient man and is therefore a poor decorator.
    3. Alan likes to go out so he rushes the jobs he needs to do.
    4. Giving presentations and speeches is like home decorating/painting because it requires preparation.
    (Correct answer is highlighted.)
    Correct answer is highlighted.

Video @ Alan Matthews (You Tube.com)

Source: Alan Mathews @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDeVFNsn80o

Task 2b: Now watch the next part of the video (from 1:59-3:03) and read along with the audio script. Then answer the question below.

‘Now if you just want to rush in, give the talk and rush off again because you hate it, you’re not going to spend the time doing that and people will see the difference.

I’m a professional speaker; I do it for a living. I’ve spoken in public for forty years and I still put the time in with the preparation. In fact I probably spend more time now on preparation than I ever used to…in the same way a professional decorator will put the time in on the preparation because we both know that’s what’s going to make the difference.

Now if you’re technically…if you’re a good speaker, you’ve got a flair for speaking, there’s a temptation to just ‘wing it’, to just say ‘Well I’ll just turn up on the day, I know I can talk…I’ll do a job.’ Ok you’ll do a job, but it won’t be as good as it should be.

As soon as you say ‘yes’ to giving a presentation or a talk of some sort, you’re committing yourself to do the work. Do the preparation.’

  1. Which sentence best summarizes Alan’s message in this part of the video? Choose one answer only.
    1. After 40 years of professional speaking, Alan likes to ‘wing’ his presentations (to improvise them).
    2. Alan thinks that people with a gift for speaking will do a good job by ‘winging’ their presentations.
    3. Preparation of speeches or presentations must never be avoided.
    4. Alan loves giving and preparing presentations.
    (Correct answer is highlighted.)
    Correct answer is highlighted.

Video @ Alan Matthews (You Tube.com)

Source: Alan Mathews @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDeVFNsn80o

Task 2c: Now watch the next part of this video (from 3:03-3:47) and number Alan`s advice in the order that he gives it.

Now, my decorator does the preparation by sanding things down, cleaning things, washing down the old paint work and all those sorts of jobs. Your preparation is:

Video @ Alan Matthews (You Tube.com)

Source: Alan Mathews @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDeVFNsn80o

Task 2d. Now watch the final part of the video (from 3:47-end) and fill in the blanks with the words you hear.

professional around think preparation wings
around stand job it way

‘You’ve got to 1)think of all those things before you stand up there and start talking. That’s the 2)preparation you need to do and that’s the difference between a 3)professional speaker and someone who just ‘4)wings it’, tries to do a good job and tries to get out of there as fast as possible. If you do the preparation, you’ll do a good professional 5)job in the same way my decorator will. If you’re not prepared to do that, pay someone else to come and do the presentation…ideally me…because I love giving presentations and I’ll pass some of that money on to my decorator because that will save me having to do a job that I can’t 6)stand doing. So, if you’re going to give a good presentation, DO THE PREPARATION! There`s 7)no 8)way 9)around 10)it .’
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What If I’ve prepared an excellent presentation but still feel anxious?

As seen above, refining and practising a presentation until it is excellent is the best way to reduce nervousness as this process helps presenters gain confidence and feel that they have prepared a high quality presentation that will be judged positively by the audience. This is why refining and practising must never be omitted or forgotten: it is a CRUCIAL part of the process.

After refining and practising thoroughly however, some people may still feel anxious about presenting. It is essential for these presenters to keep in mind that ANXIETY IS NOT A WEAKNESS but rather a natural emotion which can play a very positive role in the public speaking process. As most experienced public speakers know, anxiety can be used as fuel to propel the presenter to success.

To better understand the next video containing excellent advice on how to use anxiety as fuel for presenting successfully, study the following vocabulary items:

  • profound (adj) - thoughtful; meaningful; philosophical; deep
  • centered (adj) - confident; self-assured; poised
  • compelled (adj) - deeply interested; fascinated
  • disengage (v) - to stop listening to a speaker or presenter; to stop paying attention

Video @ Marie Forleo (You Tube.com)

Source: MarieTV @ http://www.marieforleo.com/2013/03/overcome-fear-shyness-josh-pais/

Task 3a: Watch the first part of the video (from 1:03-6:40) then answer the Yes / No questions.

Yes / No
1. Josh believes that people should try to overcome their shyness/nervousness/anxiety. Yes / No
2. Josh believes that shyness/nervousness/anxiety are good things. Yes / No
3. Josh believes that trying to overcome anxiety is part of people’s problem. Yes / No
4. Josh suggests four steps for ‘overcoming’ shyness/nervousness/anxiety. Yes / No
5. Josh believes that humans are ‘vibrators’. Yes / No
6. Josh’s father was a chemist who worked with Albert Einstein. Yes / No
7. Josh’s father told Josh that his job is to explore atoms. Yes / No
8. Josh’s father told Josh people are made up of atoms. Yes / No
9. Later in life, Josh remembered this when he felt different emotions. Yes / No
10. Josh feels that if his body is a mass of atoms, then the vibrations/feelings he has are natural, and neither good nor bad. Yes / No
11. Thinking about emotions in this way gave Josh a great deal of freedom. Yes / No
12. Josh advises people to recognize that they vibrate and that this is normal. Yes / No

Video @ Marie Forleo (You Tube.com)

Source: MarieTV @ http://www.marieforleo.com/2013/03/overcome-fear-shyness-josh-pais/

Task 3b: Yes / No Questions (2). Watch the second part of the video (from 8:13-11:45) then answer the Yes / No questions.

Yes / No
1. Josh believes that if you have an emotion such as nervousness, you should try your best to hide that emotion when you speak in public. Yes / No
2. ‘Ride it don’t hide it’ is Josh’s advice for using emotional energy as ‘fuel’. Yes / No
3. Josh suggests using emotional energy as a means of pushing you into action. Yes / No
4. Josh thinks that using deep breathing techniques to keep calm is useful. Yes / No
5. Josh taught Marie that when presenters try hide a feeling they believe is ‘bad’, they usually display that feeling even more. Yes / No
6. Josh and Marie state that when people allow their nervousness to occur, people appear to be more ‘centered’ (confident) and more honest. Yes / No
7. Josh believes that it is all right to be nervous if you do not try to hide it. Yes / No
8. Josh believes that if you try to hide your nervousness, people will see that you are putting energy into that rather than what you are saying and they will stop listening to you. Yes / No
9. Marie thinks people show honesty when they try to hide their nervousness. Yes / No
10. Josh and Marie feel it would be uninteresting to see a calm public speaker. Yes / No
11. Josh says that feelings of nervousness/anxiety seldom last more than 12 seconds. Yes / No
12. Josh recommends allowing yourself to feel the anxiety and nervousness, rather than suppressing it, and to realize that it will quickly pass. Yes / No
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From Marie’s interview with Josh in the preceding videos, it can be seen that anxiety about speaking or presenting in public is a very natural and normal occurrence; humans naturally ‘vibrate’ with emotions, and rather than trying to hide feelings of anxiety, people should channel the energy from these feelings to ‘fuel’ or ‘propel’ them through their presentations and speeches. Doing so will allow speakers to project a more honest image, whether they feel nervous or not, which will engage the audience much more deeply.

Now watch the following video of a former news presenter who talks about how to control nervousness.

Video @ Expert Academy (You Tube.com)

Source: Expert Academy @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryXOW1QS0ZM

Task 4a: Matching. Listen to the first part of the video (from 0:00-1:22) then drag and drop the second half of Sylvie’s sentences to the appropriate first half.

Video @ Expert Academy (You Tube.com)

Source: Expert Academy @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryXOW1QS0ZM

Task 4b. Listen to the second part of the video (from 1:27-3:43) and fill in the gap with the words you hear the speaker say. Choose words from the box below.

subconscious neutral sensations conscious prepares
attitude imitate opposite posture shaking

‘…it is a very important button because as soon as the button is pushed, that’s what we call the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. You have all these 1)sensations in your body; typically the things that you experience when you are nervous, like a dry mouth, legs 2)shaking , you’re heart really beating very fast, your respiration is going faster. And, this is something that actually is there to yourself because as it is a ‘fight or flight’ reaction, imagine that there is this car nearly racing into you when cross the road – the fact that you have this heartbeat that is fast it actually 3)prepares you to react and to…run actually.

Now the thing is, when you stand in front of an audience, you cannot run. So, the antennas, they don’t make a difference between a real danger and a danger in your head. So what happens is, when you’re in front of your audience, you cannot run, you kind of ‘freeze’, but still you have these sensations so you want to protect yourself. Now this is on a 4)subconscious level.

What happens on a 5)conscious level, so actually when you stand in front of your audience, you want to protect yourself, so actually by doing this… now this is overdoing it, but to some extent that’s what (inexperienced) speakers actually do in front of an audience. Stand like that… you really want to protect yourself, looking down or looking very quickly from one person to another…

…Now what does an experienced speaker do? Exactly the 6)opposite . They, on a conscious level, they make themselves big in front of the audience. You could say that they ‘fake it’. ‘Making yourself big’ – what I mean with that is having that 7)posture in front of your audience that gives you a kind of positive 8)attitude .

Now, to know what that is, just watch television. You can really learn a lot from it and I advise you to look especially at people for example presenting the news, but people standing, because that’s the most difficult thing to do, how to stand in front of that audience, what to do with your arms, what to do with your legs. Just look at how they stand and 9)imitate that because this is a good 10)neutral position.’

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If you listen, watch and follow all of the tips and advice in the videos and exercises above, and if you prepare and practice very well every time you need to speak in public, you will be well on your way to overcoming your fears and directing your nervousness more positively, which will greatly help instead of hinder your performances. Always remember the wisdom of the sentence: ‘practice makes perfect’… or at the very least, it brings progress which leads to perfection! Good luck!

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