Thursday, June 12, 2014


"The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public." —George Jessel

> I recently accepted the invitation/assignment/calling to teach an adult Sunday School class every other week in my church. I've been told by a number of people that if I didn't tell anyone I was nervous, they wouldn't know. Truth is, I get horribly nervous and anxious (yep...trigger the stress-induced tension headache which often turns into a multiple-day migraine). Once I get going with the lesson, I'm fine—not comfortable—but, when I'm well-prepared, I get going with my material, then with appropriate interaction from the class, I settle into a flow.
> I've received compliments (for which I'm SO appreciative) and I believe that my college education (even though it was years ago) helps me a lot when it comes to presenting or public speaking. We regularly presented different stages of design projects for rounds of critique from the instructor and fellow students until each round of changes was approved. 
> I don't love public speaking or presenting, but with years of experience in my career and past church obligations, I've learned to hide the signs of my anxiety while I'm on display. But I'm always glad for a bit of advice to help me improve. Following are several teaching/presenting tips I'm working on, from a variety of sources (and here and here). Maybe they'll help you too.

Smile at the opening and here and there in your presentation. It sends a powerful nonverbal signal that you are self-assured and in control. An occasional smile at appropriate times will help you relax and will increase your rapport with your audience.
 Make eye contact. The people are there for the same reason you are. They can relate to you.
 Don't apologize for any part of the presentation. You're giving people a reason to check out before you even get going (This is not a problem for me with work, but for teaching, I'm making a solid effort. The reason I have people telling me they wouldn't know I was nervous if I didn't say it, is because I started my first couple lessons with some comment about my inadequacy, nervousness, etc. The first time I finally suppressed the urge to be self-deprecating, someone asked if I was still nervous...yeah, I've set a nice precedent for myself ;-)
 Be genuine—be yourself. People almost always respond positively when someone is being genuine (Luckily I've found this to be true. The flow I get into allows me to do this, and I've felt very supported by those in the class. whew!)
 The best presentation is like a conversation with someone you like, where the ideas and thoughts flow naturally, not from looking down and reading every word from notes (I really try to do this by asking questions that will generate a discussion. I love it when lots of hands go up. People are really engaged and wanting to be part of the conversation. Success!)
 Pauses are essential to a strong delivery. Pause after introducing new points to add emphasis (It's really hard to pause when you're nervous, workin' on this one).
 Practice! The more you practice, the less you will have to think about during the actual talk itself. This will increase your confidence, decrease the inevitable jitters, and allow you to focus on other details that are also important to a successful presentation.

> What doesn't kill me makes me stronger...right?  I'm using what I learned from years of design classes, and presenting to clients to help me with this current teaching assignment; and learning to teach better will in turn give me additional experience for presenting design projects to my clients. Win-win.

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