How to overcome the fear of public speaking - Advice by Speaking Edge

How to overcome the fear of public speaking

Public speaking is a skill that every business person must master.

If presenting fills you with fear and anxiety it can be hard to represent your business successfully, sell your ideas or motivate your team.

Whether you are speaking in front of a group, or simply presenting your product to a prospective customer, presentation skills are essential to getting ahead in your professional life.

Public speaking anxiety is very real. However, there are techniques to help you overcome your fears. 

Read more if you want to learn how…..

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You're in good company

Public speaking anxiety affects most of us at some point. For some, the nerves are so crippling they avoid any speaking opportunity.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two!

This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

— Jerry Seinfeld

 

If public speaking fills you with dread you are in good company.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin said “I loathe making speeches, and always have,” in a recent entrepreneur.com blog “I deliver a lot of them these days, but it’s almost as true today as it was when I first spoke in public as a student some 50-odd years ago."

“Back then, my school was having a contest in which we had to memorize a short speech and present it to the other students. If we stumbled at any point, we were “gonged,” which ended the speech. I remember being scared half to death when my turn came and I had to stand in front of my classmates; I still break out in a cold sweat just thinking back to the excruciating experience.”

Lots of well known individuals have needed help and support to increase their speaking confidence. Surprisingly, these have included Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and JFK.

The billionaire investor Warren Buffet also admits to being terrified of public speaking in his early career. He took courses to help him overcome his fears.

Becoming a confident, compelling and persuasive speaker will create all sorts of opportunities in business and in your career.

It's one of the best investments you'll ever make.

The following tips will help you overcome your fear of public speaking and give great presentations.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

In my experience, virtually everyone struggles with public speaking to some extent. It is normal to be nervous when talking in front of a group.

The only way to genuinely overcome your fears and become a confident speaker is to actually do it. The more you do it, the better you will become and your confidence will increase.

Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.

The tips within this article will help you get started.

Prepare

Nothing helps ease the fear of public speaking more than knowing your material. The ability to connect with your audience starts with having the confidence you can keep on track throughout your presentation.

Most novice speakers begin preparing by asking themselves "what do I want to say?".

Inspiring speaker starts from their audience's perspective. They  ask "What are their needs and objectives, what do they need to know and understand?". 

In doing so, they become credible and engaging speakers who are listened to and respected.

Craft your presentation on paper rather than using power-point. Try using a story board technique. This gets your ideas up on the wall where you can see it from start to finish. In this way, you can review it, share it and make improvements.

The best speakers do not draft their entire speech word for word. Instead, they design their content by noting the key points with prompts on sub topics and examples to cover.

Practice, practice and practice some more

Repeated practice and refinement will help to banish any nerves and anxiety.

Bitter experience has taught me that your presentation will always sound excellent whilst it remains in your head. It is only once you say it out loud that you know whether it is good enough. Very few speakers are talented enough to get it right first time.

Crafting a powerful, persuasive and memorable presentation takes refinement and alteration. It is invariably an iterative process if you want to get it right and make a real impact.

Ideally record yourself and better still, video your entire presentation. By replaying your speech you will be able to learn so much about how you come across, your body language and your facial expressions.

Hearing or watching a recording of yourself can be cringeworthy initially, but it's an investment that will reap enormous dividends.

Start small

If you're new to public speaking, start small. Find a few friends and family to practice on. 

Begin by speaking to smaller groups and build up from there. The size of the audience makes very little difference. 

Speak in front of people you like and trust who can offer you honest feedback and encouragement. This will definitely help to build your confidence.

Not sure what to talk about?

You have lots of great talks within you already. Talks that no-one else can make but you.

Use your personal experiences and thoughts as your topics. Here's a few examples:

  • "My biggest ambition"
  • "The greatest regret of my life"
  • "My happiest moment"

You'll have plenty more you could use I'm sure.

Know your subject

Knowing more about your topic than you are ever going to need will really help you to feel more confident and courageous.

The best way to do this is to include stories and examples from your own personal experiences.

Using personal stories means that you can talk from the heart. It means you don't need to worry so much about preparation or being word perfect because you are simply relaying events and feelings that you have lived through.

Even if you are asked to present on technical subjects, your audience will appreciate your personal examples and feelings far more.

Stories and examples that support your presentations are much more engaging and memorable. They are also much easier for you to talk about with passion and enthusiasm.

Get your first 60 seconds nailed

Having coached hundreds of people to become confident speakers, I have learnt that most people's fears are focused upon their opening few lines. They worry about get tongue tied and looking foolish.

Usually, once they get going, their confidence starts to improve.

As a result, I strongly recommend you pay particular attention to the opening 60 seconds of your speech. Practice your intro more than any other element. 

Ensure that you know exactly what you are going to say in your opening, word for word.

Have your opening lines so well rehearsed that if I woke up up in the middle of the night, you could immediately recite the first minute of your presentation verbatim.

It sets up your entire presentation on the right footing and provides the platform for a really successful and confident speech. 

You will be amazed at how this will reduce your nerves before your presentation.

Don't aim for perfection

Remember your audience can’t see what you are feeling and they have no idea what you are going to say.

Most of your fears and worries will stay inside you and be invisible to your audience. They also have no idea that you may have missed some of the points you intended to speak about.

Most audiences want to hear an authentic speaker who provides content that is interesting and stimulating. They won't know, nor care, that you are not word perfect

About the Author Paul Lucas

For over 20 years, I’ve been helping leaders, managers and sales teams get better results by improving their communication and influencing skills. My training is founded upon extensive research and analysis. Helping you to understand the specific behaviours, techniques and strategies of the world’s best speakers and influencers provides the platform to transform your presentations and sales skills.

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