How to stop fear getting in the way of speaking in public

As the old adage goes, “More people are scared of speaking in public than are afraid of dying!” If you’re one of those people, don’t worry, with these ten tips you’ll soon have them eating out of your hand, giving you a standing ovation and demanding an encore! Its true – standing up and speaking in public does get easier with practice but for everyone, there still has to a first time! Learning to overcome the fear is vital if you’re going to take your business to the next level of success. Use the following to give you the confidence you need to pick up the phone and offer your speaking services to all the appropriate groups and societies in your area… 1 Speak only on subjects which you understand. Failing to observe this golden rule will lead to you getting caught out sooner or later! And remember to show enthusiasm for your subject – if you can’t get excited about it, chances no-one else will either.

2 Establish yourself as the authority on your subject, which will give you instant credibility with your audience. Keep it brief and explain why people should listen to, and believe in, you! Do this in no more than three sentences.

3 Remember that your audience’s main thought is “What’s in this for me?” Make sure you answer this unspoken question in your introduction – and when you introduce an element of curiosity, you’ll have them sitting on the edge of their seats, desperate to find out more.

4 Never, ever start a presentation by saying that you’re nervous, or that you’ve never done this kind of thing before. You’ll just draw attention to the things you most want to hide. Indeed, your audience will start looking for evidence to back up what you say. And if the unexpected happens, and you do find yourself having to wing it on the spot, then wing it – but just don’t tell your audience. You won’t get sympathy; instead you’ll just look unprofessional.

5 Breathe! Nervousness can make you breathe shallowly – which won’t help the timbre or projection of your voice. It also helps to have a glass of water handy, should your voice dry up or should you need a little thinking time (pausing for a sip of water makes you look confident). 6 Stand when making presentations – it gives you an immediate air of authority. Actually, it’s often the fact that we’re standing while everyone else is sitting which makes us so uncomfortable when making presentations. It’s to do with eye levels – usually when we talk with people we’re at a similar eye level which helps create rapport. Think about talking with a child for a moment, if you want to make them feel more comfortable, it’s usually a good idea to crouch down so that your heads are the same level. But exactly the opposite occurs when we stand to make a presentation. Just understanding this can help reduce your anxiety. 7 Use your energy – your auric field – to attract your audience. Before starting your presentation, spend a few moments – perhaps while you’re being introduced ‘mentally visualising your energy field expanding to encompass the whole room. It’s worth practicing beforehand as it’s a very powerful tool which will make your audience automatically warm to you, without understanding quite why. 8 Be aware that communicating with others is about more than your words. In fact, only 7% of your words are taken into account – the rest of your communication is understood through the tone of your voice and body language.

9 Invest in the style and colour of clothes which suit you best. Women should wake up and (non-dangly) earrings, in order to look “finished”. Open-toed shoes look less professional and men should never wear either white socks or grey shoes. Wearing a jacket implies authority and bear in mind that you should dress appropriately for the message – and for the audience. 10 Finally, remember that no-one else knows what you were going to say in your talk anyway – so don’t worry if you miss out a chunk of your speech – no-one else will be any the wiser!

© Olivia Stefanino 2008

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