Why Can’t People Give Presentations? [And How to Get Over It!]


The fear of giving presentations is real. There’s even a term for it – Glossophobia! So, if you find it difficult to stand in front of a group of people to give a presentation, then you are not alone! There are many reasons why people find it hard to give a presentation.

Most common reasons why people struggle to give a presentation are fear of public speaking, fear of failure, and lack of confidence due to not knowing what to say, unpreparedness or even lack of presentation skills. However, there are few quick steps that one can take to overcome such hesitations.

Understanding your fear is the first step in helping you overcome it. So, in this article, we share some of the most common worries people have when it comes to presenting, along with some tips on how to overcome it!

1. Fear of Failure

Indian businessman supporting colleague and stroking his back while he crying and covering face with hands. Failure and support concept

One of the greatest concerns people have when it comes to presenting is that they won’t be as good at it as someone else or even worse that their presentation would be a failure!

One of the most common reasons for the fear of failure is the need for perfection! In a study done by the Pennsylvania State University, which was published in the Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, researches found direct cognitive links between Fear of Failure and Perfectionism.

You might’ve seen an amazing TED talk on YouTube, or a winning pitch on Shark Tank, and thought to yourself that you’ll never have the ability or confidence to come across as well as they did.

How to Overcome the Fear of Failure?

The best way to overcome this fear is to apply some of the concepts listed later in this article. You should only judge yourself against yourself. If you have prepared to the best of your ability, given your best shot and covered everything you had set out to – then there are no reasons why you would fail!

With this list of tips mentioned in this article will, you will start to notice incremental developments in your presenting style each time you get in front of people. And if something does go wrong, you can assess the differences between this attempt and the previous one.

You must treat giving a presentation just like any other skill. You need to practice by investing time and effort into this skill in order to become better at it. Before you know it, you’ll be presenting like a pro, so long as you are willing to make mistakes along the way.

After all, it is a skill worth investing in, because a 2014 survey of more than 600 employers found that “oral communication” was number one and “presentation skills” number four among the top skills recruiters look for.

So, if you want your dream job, you’d better be willing to take the plunge, get in front of people and improve your skills of presentation.

2. Lack of Experience

For many people, the biggest reason they are afraid to stand in front of an audience to present is the fact that they haven’t done it a huge amount before.

They might have had to present in front of a class at school or give a speech at a family event, but other than that they may often have had little experience of standing up in front of a crowd and talking.

Thus, not having given a presentation enough makes one feel nervous and anxious of the unknown; the unknown of not knowing how things will go, what will be the reaction of the audience, and other things similar to that.

How to Overcome the Lack of Experience?

The best way to overcome a lack of experience is to gain experience by doing more presentations! No number of hacks, tips, tricks, or advice is a good enough replacement for simply getting up there and doing a presentation.

But, that will take a while for you to amass. Plus, you have to start somewhere! Fortunately, there are a couple of things that you can do!

A.] Showcase Confidence

So, a good way to come across as an experienced presentor is to speak with immense confidence. You don’t necessarily have to be confident in order to sound confident!

In my experience, one of the easiest way to sound confident is to improve your voice modulation! Often, when we speak a little louder and stress on certain words with pauses using a proper intonation pattern, we come across as confident!

Watch the above clip of Margaret Thatcher wherein her voice from two interviews are compared. Notice how the “After” voice part of the video, Ms. Thatcher comes across as very confident!

B.] Practise with Other People [Friends or Family]

Another quick way to sound experienced is to practise with other friends or family members.

However, make sure you do this once you have completed preparing for your presentation. Practising in front of your family members should be considered as if you are presenting to the audience.

Knowing that your family or friends would only give you constructive feedback, it will make you more confident and make your presentation more robust.

The more you practise with other people around, the more you will be able to develop a style that works for you and gauge the reaction of a controlled group of audience. With experience, you will find yourself feeling more comfortable on stage.

It might be hard to overcome this hurdle – especially the first few times, as you still try to find your feet – but the experience is the best way to build your confidence.

3. Fear of Public Speaking

Some psychologists believe that fear of public speaking is worse than even the fear of death!

Fear of Public Speaking is definitely a very common form of anxiety. Some people are naturally introverted, so the idea of standing in front of a crowd to present something will be at odds with the very nature of their being. Others might ordinarily be very confident, outgoing, and chatty, but the moment they are stood in front of a group of people presenting they tense up.

Whichever category you find yourself fitting into, you might find it hard to control your breathing, you might sweat, or your voice might crack when these nerves set in. These are natural fight or flight reactions that kick into action when you’re faced with the fear of public speaking!

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking?

There are several small things that you can do in order to overcome the fear of public speaking. I’ll be sharing a couple of things that have worked for me –

A.] Preparation

It goes without saying that preparation before a presentation is of utmost importance. No matter how experienced you are at giving presentations, you need to prepare.

If you are a beginner, you will need to spend more time preparing. As you become more experienced, you’ll notice that the time you need to spend on preparation gradually decreases. However, you can not do away with this step completely in most cases.

How you prepare yourself is secondary. Everyone has their own style of giving presentations, and their own unique style for preparation! The most important is that you spend enough time and effort in making sure that you know in and out of your presentation.

I usually like to prepare my presentation by looking at myself in the mirror (without reading). This allows me to observe my body language and see myself the way my audience would see me. If I notice any incorrect movements or lack of enthusiasm on my face, practising in front of a mirror gives me the opportunity to correct it!

B.] Speak as if Presenting to a Friend

Fear of public speaking or giving presentations is often borne by the amount of attention that you get when you are standing on the stage!

The moment you set foot on stage, you cannot miss but take notice of the fact that so many eyeballs are set on you! You almost feel the weight of the expectations of so many people on your shoulder, and you definitely don’t want to disappoint them!

These feelings often take over your thinking process and make you freeze on stage! (otherwise known as stage fright)

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this fear.

My favorite technique is to think as if you are presenting to a friend that you are comfortable with rather than hundreds of people sitting in the audience!

It doesn’t have to be a friend. It could be a family member or your spouse or any other person. But, just imagine you are presenting only to this 1 person rather than the dozens and dozens of people sitting in the audience.

This way, you don’t feel that weight of the expectations of hundreds of people. Plus, you are already comfortable with that person. So, you won’t feel like you are disappointing anyone’s expectation!

C.] Practise Breathing Control Techniques

The greatest remedy to get over such nerves is to control your breathing. Not only will slow breathing impact the tone and speed of your voice – making it easier to listen to for your audience – but it will have a huge physiological impact on the rest of your body.

Research shows that controlling your breathing can lead to a slowing of your heart rate. The reason you want to slow your heart rate is that your body is more likely to succumb to the natural fears associated with presenting, which manifest themselves in shaking, sweating or nervousness.

To this end, you shouldn’t start speaking until your breath is under control. Primarily, this is because you will find it harder to speak if you are constantly searching for your breath.

But controlling your breath will also help you to gain a sense of control over the situation and also put your audience at ease.

Once you are all set – stand in front of your audience, take a moment to control your breathing and then begin.

Not only will it fill you with confidence but that moment of silence before you start will grab the audience’s attention and give them a sense that this is going to be a strong presentation worth listening to.

4. Bad Past Experiences

As mentioned above, you might have only presented a few times before. What’s worse, those few times you did present to an audience you may have had a bad experience.

You might have fluffed your lines, made a bad joke that didn’t land or even had to fluster around before it began to get the PowerPoint loaded on the screen, leaving you stressed and short on time by the time it came to speak.

However, chances are that the first few times you perhaps ran into bad luck! It’s important to remember that presenting is a skill and just like any other, it requires a great amount of training, work, and dedication to become a master in the art of presenting. Michael Jordan didn’t get great at throwing a basketball into the hoop overnight, and neither did Barack Obama get great at speaking to crowds without practice.

If you simply take your one bad experience as proof that you can’t do it, then the truth is that you never will get any better at it. However, if you bite the bullet and try again then the chances are, you’ll improve at least one element of your presenting ability each time.

After all, if it went genuinely horrifically badly the last time you tried, and that is why you are hesitant now, then the chances are you can’t do any worse!

So, what have you got to lose?

5. Fear of Handling Technology!

As mentioned above, a problem that many of us have faced at some point is a failure of technology leading to a less than perfect presentation. It might have been a faulty microphone, an unsuccessful attempt to insert a video into your slides or even a failure to transfer your presentation on the destination computer!

Firstly, I highly recommend that you always carry a USB stick loaded with not only your presentation but also your other media files with it. A high-speed USB stick, like this one from Samsung [on Amazon], is critically important

These things happen and sometimes there is no avoiding them. So, the first way to prepare for this is to always be ready to present with no technology at all. In this way, whatever the situation throws at you, you will be able to still provide the audience with the verbal content they need from you.

On top of this, you can also do a number of things to lessen the number of potential technical issues. For example, if you are using a presentation on a memory stick, then you can also email this to yourself or a colleague beforehand. In the case that you have an issue with the memory stick, there will be another copy saved digitally on both your email and that of your colleague.

Meanwhile, you should test any links and/or videos that you have inserted into your presentation beforehand to make sure that they work. This can form part of your practice if you are someone who needs to rehearse or can simply be done by clicking through the presentation as if it were happening prior to saving it and sharing it in front of others.

If you get good at preparing well for your presentations, not only will you feel more comfortable with regards to the technology, but you will also find it easier to speak on your given subject too.

You will know your presentation inside out and will be ready for any mishaps that might get thrown up on the day.

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