Rial Bates: How to present when you're afraid of public speaking

Kay Rial Bates
Kay Rial Bates

As someone who avoided doing presentations until I was president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, I easily can say that by becoming a presenter, I not only have reduced my anxiety, but I have enjoyed the process of speechmaking.

Why would you want to gain the skill of public speaking? There’s an easy answer to this question. Learning to do presentations is essential for the upwardly mobile.

Good presentations get us noticed, keeping us in the minds of those we wish to impress.

Now, how do we start a presentation?

We must first be knowledgeable about the subject to be presented, whether a product, service or something about which we feel passionate.

Next, will it be interesting or useful to the audience?

Then, plan out what we wish to say in a logical way. Usually, I consider what I wish to accomplish with the talk. Then I prepare much the way that I would organize a paper. I start with an introduction – who I am, my credentials and why I am discussing this topic. Then comes the body. A personal story can be useful here, about someone who has used the product, service or shares the passion. This also is the time to discuss needful details.

Be aware that professional jargon is not appropriate, unless your audience shares your knowledge. Lastly, close. Usually here, I repeat what I wish people to remember most. I use bullet points to make certain all receive the significance of the talk.

A couple of essential ideas to remember:

• The length of the presentation should be adapted to the time available and appropriate. If short, don’t panic – use this time for questions. Don’t talk just to fill space.

• Write out the presentation word for word. Memorize it. Then practice it in front of a mirror with gestures and emphasis added. If possible, we should all practice in front of trusted folks who will critique us.

• Use eye contact. Focus on five to six friendly appearing people in the audience.

• Don’t read a speech. This is a way to bore an audience.

• Don’t worry about being nervous. It often gives our presentations energy.

• Use multimedia. Most of us are visual learners, not auditory, so multimedia can be a great help in conveying our points.

• Bottom line: Gaining the accomplishment of presenting well not only can give us a step up on the competition, but helps us all gain confidence and the good feeling of gaining a new skill.

• • •

The McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce will host the 2018 Downtown Uncorked Wine Walk from 1 to
4 p.m. Sept. 15. Stroll through McHenry’s unique downtown shops while sipping specially selected wines and enjoying appetizers and sweets from McHenry’s finest restaurants. Check-in and wristband giveaway (please bring an ID) starts at noon at McHenry Villa, 3516 Waukegan Road, McHenry.

Each attendee will receive an opportunity to try 30 tastes of wines selected by International House of Wine and Cheese; specially chosen cheeses, hors d’ oeuvres and sweets at each of the 15 stops; one complimentary bottle of wine chosen by each attendee; a swag bag; a bottle of water; and a commemorative wineglass.

Tickets can be bought at for $35 or at the door for $40. Only 300 tickets are available, so don’t wait too long – the event has sold out two years in a row. If you would like additional information, visit the Chamber’s website or call 815-385-4300.

Rotary Club of McHenry-Sunrise will host its mixer Aug. 21, followed by the next Men of Monday Night Mixer on Aug. 28. Later, celebrate the Ribbon Cutting and Multi Chamber Mixer on Aug. 30 at Guaranteed Rate. Paradise Financial will host its mixer Sept. 11.

On Aug. 8, we are pleased to announce a Lunch n Learn on “Business Killers,” held by Paradise Financial. Lunch will be provided.

• Kay Rial Bates is president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 815-385-4300 or visit

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