I don’t know about you, but my inbox is constantly receiving emails, articles, and ads promising tips for fear-free public speaking. My most recent new client, a very polished and educated woman who knows her field cold, said she was terrified of speaking in public, and came to me for tips specifically to combat that fear. Just yesterday, my husband brought me a page he tore out of an airline magazine advertising classes to combat stress before presentations, and how to get rid of those dreaded “shaky hands”.
What is it about the thought of public speaking that causes otherwise normal people to be frightened? I’ve come to the conclusion that it just might be the idea of making a public presentation, rather than the actual doing of it.
Think about it. If you’re in a meeting of your colleagues, sitting around a table, and you explain something you’re doing or try to persuade them to follow your idea, is that scary? In the same situation, if you had to stand at the front of the room, would that make it scary? Probably not. But if your boss told you ahead of time that you were supposed to make a presentation to the group, that might be stressful and even frightening. Why? The event itself didn’t change – only your thought about it in advance!
Here are some of the ways I’ve found to help people overcome their fear of public speaking:
- Love your audience! Whether it’s a small group of prospective clients, a large convention gathering, or a class of students, if you love them you’ll want to make your message as easy to understand as possible. You’ll think about presenting ideas in the way they can best understand them – not the way you want to say them. You’ll put yourself in their seats and imagine what they want to get out of the event. The fear-free payoff? When you’re thinking about them, you’re not thinking about you. And you can only be fearful if you’re thinking about you!
- Know your stuff! If you really know your stuff and are very prepared, then it won’t matter if you lose your place or there is some unexpected change. You’ll easily be able to pick up wherever you need to and make the right conceptual connections that keep you on track.
- Remember that, although you’re using your body language and voice appropriately for whatever size group is in front of you, each person is only hearing you as one. It’s just a one-on-one conversation with a bunch of people at once. And not one of those people should be scary one-on-one.
Speaking in public should be a joy. Successfully sharing ideas with others and receiving their feedback – either verbally or through their body language – is an inspiring experience. Don’t let semantics and a marketing blitz rob you of it!