Fact: The Wall Street Journal has listed public speaking as the number one fear in America – fear of death came in at number two!
It seems that we feel so vulnerable in front of an audience that we generally expect only two possible outcomes: perfection or rejection. The former instantly creates high pressure, the latter intense dread. No wonder public speaking is perceived as so difficult, if we only expect one or the other! But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are some self-help tips you can use to make your public speaking activities far less stressful for you – and perhaps even enjoyable! If, after trying these, you still feel that you would like some professional support to get your public speaking fears under control, please claim your FREE 30 minute Change Your Life Consultation by going to my website www.vernonaharris.com or call Vernon on 07866 730941.
Mentally banish the myth that you have to make a totally perfect presentation for it to work well. Recognise instead that if you make small slip ups, it’s how you carry on that will make all the difference. Stay self-possessed and confident and go on – that’s all you need to do. Your audience will never notice most of your mistakes (this is especially true if your audience don’t have experience in your field) and even the most polished speakers don’t manage total perfection. Remember, your own energy and personality count for a lot in conveying your message – so give yourself permission to be human – it’s part of your charm. When you speak with warmth and enthusiasm, that’s what people will notice the most – so stay with that high level of energy and just keep going.
Choose a subject in which you have expertise. If you find yourself in a difficult position and have to speak on a topic that you are unsure about, do as much research as you can, speaking to experts and gathering the benefit of their wisdom and experience as much as they will allow. So many professionals in a successful position are generous with their advice so that others can learn from them, so ask and receive graciously. Work everything you have into the best presentation you can create. Your preparation will pave the way for success. Also double check that you will have everything you need at the venue and that you’re proficient in using any equipment you’ll need to work with.
Banish from your mind any notion that you need to memorise every word of a set script, or worse, that you need to actually read every word rigidly from a script. Of course, prepare your slides, write your “sound bites” on cards, perhaps even arranging your ideas into a story format – but remember that trying to commit long texts to memory will only increase your nervousness and probably sound stilted to the audience anyway. Keep your slides to one idea for each, grouping them into themes to structure your presentation soundly. You could even have a set of bullet-pointed cards only you can see as memory-joggers if that works for you.
Practice, practice, practice! Yes, out loud! In front of partner, friends, associates – anyone who will give you some constructive and honest feedback. Polish as you go, especially your “opener” – once you’ve said your opening words, you’re “in the zone” and your energy is flowing….the pre-speech nerves are just a memory!
You can also record yourself, listen, and keep making adjustments to improve your delivery as you go – you can do this as many times as you feel you need, to get your confidence with your delivery to where you feel it should be. Trust your instincts – you’ll know when you feel you’ve cracked it! You can also watch videos on You Tube to study delivery techniques and learn from them.
And about those pre-speech nerves: accept them, and that they’ll pass. Many actors and musicians say that they would be more concerned if they didn’t feel nervous before a performance, no matter how experienced they are. See your nerves as a sign that your energy is flowing, if you can, rather than letting them have a paralysing effect. Breathing, meditation and visualisation are powerful techniques that will help you to self-calm and channel that energy constructively.
Finally…If you’ve managed to deliver a presentation that you feel was “good enough”…congratulations! When you reflect on it – was there anything that you would do differently with hindsight? This is the key to becoming proficient in public speaking – as for anything else, you can refine your skills through experience and awareness, increasing your confidence as you develop this aspect of your professional life. Remember, this is just one skill you can bring to the table as a professional – there is no need to equate your public speaking abilities with your self-worth – but of course, they are valuable and transferrable skills to have.