Friday, 3 April 2015

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Public speaking can be exceptionally rewarding, stimulating, and enriching for people who do it well. It can make or break careers and open up opportunities that would never exist otherwise. There's just one small problem. Most of us are petrified of grabbing the Microsoft Office PowerPoint remote and getting in front of people. Fear of public speaking makes us dread the very activity we should be pursuing as often as possible! The question, then, is what can we do to lessen this fear and make our presentation experiences more productive and fun?
Warning! The following suggestions are not at all normal because they approach Microsoft Office PowerPoint from a very nontraditional perspective. You may be tempted to scratch your head in disbelief. However, the effectiveness of these ideas has been borne out through years of experience, across hundreds of presenters just like you and me. So ponder them carefully.

Step 1: Be interactive and responsive with your audience

The most important action you need to take right away is to reconfigure all (or most) of your presentation materials to be interconnected and flexibly accessible. If someone asks a question, you should be able to show them an answer, whatever that question may be. If time is running out and it's necessary to cut a performance short, there should be ways of secretly eliminating slides or otherwise sculpting messages on the spot. Don't ever deliver a single linear presentation. Constantly move between multiple smaller presentations instead. This allows more adjustment possibilities. If a thought pops into your head and you want to show your audience a slide that was not originally anticipated, make sure you can find and display that slide within seconds, even if there are thousands of options from which to choose. To see video demonstrations of this kind of flexible, interactive presentation, visit the Aspire Communications home page. Create forms of navigation like the ones showcased there that work best for your situation, so that you can quickly locate just the right slides at a moment's notice. Being that much in control of what you show and when you show it causes fear to melt away like nothing else.

Step 2: Integrate visual clues to guide the selection of content

Our network of slide shows that we use during speaking and training activities now contains well over 14,000 slides. A question we frequently hear is, "How in the world can you find one slide quickly when there are that many options?" Our response: "How do you find individual items in a grocery story, a library, or on the Web?" Quickly finding individual items out of thousands of choices is really quite easy if you follow certain organizational principles. For example, notice the following illustration. Each of the little pictures on this menu is actually a screen shot of the slide shows that will open once the link is clicked. That visual information gives the presenter previews of available content before any links are clicked, a kind of cheat sheet as it were. In other words, he or she doesn't have to try and remember all of the shows that are available because the navigation in this case acts as a subtle reminder. There are at least 10 different forms of visual clues that can be included in your network of slides, and you should use them all — constantly. Such clues are enormously comforting when under pressure.

Step 3: Build high-quality content that is universal enough to be used over and over again, across multiple audiences

Think about your messages. I can almost guarantee there are core ideas and themes you can use again and again, during many future speaking engagements. In that case, take the time and resources to build those slides with high-quality, descriptive graphics and place those slides in a prominent place within your network. When such content is needed, simply navigate to its fixed location and show it. The slide shown here helps us explain the various applications of Zone Navigation. We use it in every training event and virtually every speaking performance, regardless of whom we are talking to. Accessing core, reusable slides like this is a huge confidence builder for presenters. Repeated use of core slides leads to greater familiarity with content and correspondingly higher confidence in the delivery of that content. Higher confidence results in stronger feelings of being in control. Control leads to less fear.


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