Chapter 6: Workplace Essential Skills

6.2 Presentations and Public Speaking

How do you feel about giving presentations? Fear of public speaking is the most common phobia, and. Iit is estimated that 75% of individuals suffer from some form of speech anxiety (Black, 2021).,  tThat’s 3 out of every 4 people. So, what’s the remedy to your fear of public speaking? Confidence. How do you gain that confidence?

  • A word on presentations. You may have noticed that many of your college courses include giving a class presentation. This is intentional as instructors understand the importance of this skill in workplace success and hope that through the classroom students begin to feel more comfortable speaking in front of others. Instructors also know that the best way to get better at public speaking, is to practice this skill. Though it might not feel this way, the classroom is a safe, low stakes way to practice and receive feedback aimed at improvement before you get into the workplace.
  • Acknowledge the challenge. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it. In addition to its being a common fear, it is also a conquerable challenge. Start by practicing in school. Though it might not feel this way, the classroom is a safe, low stakes way to practice and  receive feedback aimed at improvement before you get into the workplace.
  • Recognize the cost and benefits. You can have great ideas, but if no one ever hears them, it’s like not having them at all (Smith & Last, n.d.). Sharing your great idea in a staff meeting may lead to a promotion, whereas having an answer and being afraid to present it, may cost your company money or an important client.
  • Commit to learning the skills by watching and practicing. Watch good presentations, TEDTalks, and YouTube videos and make notes of what the presenters do well and where they need more practice. Learn from their mistakes. And then practice. Practice in your courses, in front of the mirror, on video, with your friends, and even at work. In addition to practicing, reflect on what you do well, what feels comfortable, and where you need to improve.

Are you ready to start now? Watch the following Chris Anderson’s TEDTalk and reflect on what he does well: TED’s secret to great public speaking.

How to Improve Your Verbal Communication

Remember, when it comes to verbal communication, the more you do it, the better and more comfortable you will feel. Here are a few of tips to help you improve your verbal communication skills:

  • Be prepared. Do your research, write your presentation, and practice saying it out loud. The better you know your topic, the less you will need to rely on notes. If you are using technology, test it before the presentation and have it ready to go. Nothing is worse than realizing the projector isn’t set up or the computer isn’t logged on.
  • Maintain eye contact. Don’t lock eyes with one person but acknowledge your whole audience with eye contact.
  • Match your body language to the content. Most of the time, assume a relaxed, upright posture and use natural gestures. Don’t over gesture because it can be distracting. If you are discussing a serious issue, have a solemn facial expression.
  • Take care with your appearance and attitude. Don’t over-dress, but wear professional, neat, and clean clothes. Be confident, be friendly, and especially if trying to convince your audience, be energetic about your idea.
  • Use your voice as a tool. Speak at a good volume, pause after important information, and emphasize key points. Also slow down, most of us speak more quickly when we are nervous, so take a deep breath and slow down. Recognize your use of crutch words, such as um, eh, ah, oh, like, etc. If you notice these when you are practicing, keep practicing and work on not using them. If you make a mistake, don’t let that to fluster you. Stay calm and keep on.
  • Be aware of your audience and timing. Are they with you? Have you paused for questions? Do they want you to move faster or slow down? How long were you scheduled for? For example, if you have 10 minutes to present, keep to that limit.
  • Practice some strategies beforehand to calm or to empower yourself. Deep breathing works for some, and others use power stances to engage their confidence.
  • Take opportunities to present. Join a debate or theatre club., take a class, or join your local Toastmasters club, a non-profit organization for those wanting to improve their public speaking skills.


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Getting Ready for Work-Integrated Learning Copyright © 2022 by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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