“If I have to speak…I quit!”
Maybe I should have used the title, “6 Tried and Tested Ways to Deal with Your Fear of Public Speaking”. However, like my book series “I Didn’t Sign Up.., I often hear this statement from people who are asked to speak in public, “I would rather be shot”. I think It may have potential for a book series..!
You’re not the only person who’s afraid of public speaking. It’s one of the most common phobias in the world, so much so that it’s more prevalent than the fear of death. This is not a fear you can afford to leave alone – you’re going to need to talk in public, a lot if you want to be a Top 5% achiever!
If you’d like to substantially boost your value as a business professional in 2014, billionaire Warren Buffett has some advice: master the art of public speaking. Buffett once told a class of business students that he would pay anyone in the room $100,000 for 10 percent of their future earnings. If they were good communicators, he would raise his bid by 50 percent because public speaking would make his ‘investment’ more valuable.
The scale differs and can range from a boardroom to an entire auditorium, and you’ll need to bring your A-game every time. If you can’t speak convincingly, you won’t turn anyone to your side. Meetings will fall flat, and potential customers and investors may leave shaking their head and looking to find someone else to get in bed with. Fortunately there are a lot of things you can do to help deal with this fear. (Thank you to everyone who MADE me speak when younger!) I get it… I see the fear in the folks we coach. Sales and marketing professionals – my advice to you -you have to deal with it proactively:
- Prepare Thoroughly
This is the #1 element to make speaking fun! You may not be able to completely eliminate fear from the equation, but you can reduce how much it effects your performance by preparing for it thoroughly. Study your audience and figure out who you’re talking to. Use that information to tweak your speech to make it more appropriate, and then practice, practice, practice. Rehearse. Figure out where you tend to stumble and fix it.
Action Item: Write a 5-10 minute keynote and practice it. Memorize the key points. This will give you confidence. Add a great story to your keynote.
Fear is stressful. Your fight or flight response is triggered, which can make it more difficult to deliver a speech well. Fight your fear by doing something fun before your big speech. Enjoy a conversation with a colleague, hang out with your friends, or just listen to some calming music. Do whatever it takes to relax and loosen up so that you can focus on the speech instead of the phobia.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Your Audience
Business development professionals care a lot about what other people think, especially when those people can have an effect on how their business fares. That can result in you actually being afraid of your audience. You look at your speech and start cutting out stuff that could be distracting at the cost of being informative.
Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t let them determine what you need and want to say. Respect them, where they came from, and what they’re there for, and adjust your speech accordingly. There’s nothing to be afraid of – in all but the rarest of cases, they’re probably rooting for you already. Let me say again – most people empathize and will be encouraging you to succeed. Don’t be afraid of your audience. Engage them.
- Figure Out Why You’re Afraid
One of the best ways for entrepreneurs to deal with their fear of public speaking is to diagnose it. Figure out where this fear is coming from and you may be able to get rid of it all together. You can approach this from a number of angles, from the biological to the psychological. Once your sort out where your phobia is coming from you’ll be able to deal with it better. These are the top 3 reasons I hear – they truly are not that big an issue!
- People are judging you – you have the guts to get up and speak – let them judge.
- You know you look nervous – prepare and practice!
- You have a hang up with a past performance – can’t change it – Bill Clinton is a great example of how to move forward. Remember his nightmare speech at the DNC? He later became a two term President!
- Keep it Light
There may be a lot riding on your speech. Your future as a professional as well as the future of your career could depend on how you deliver it. Despite everything that may be on the line, there’s no reason to bury people in big words and speeches. You’re there to communicate information to them, whether it’s how they can succeed in your field or why they should invest in your company. Remember to be a teacher. Content sells. Content is your best friend. Prepare and practice!
That means making the information as accessible as possible. That means keeping their minds open and light. If you need to make a joke to keep the atmosphere right, do so. Avoid belittling anyone in the audience or dumbing things down and you should be fine.
- Accept That You’re Going to Make Mistakes
Mistakes will be made when you make a presentation/speech. Some speeches will go without a hitch, but the majority of them will have a hiccup or two. Whether it’s a missed word or a forgotten paragraph, what you need to remember is that it’s okay. You can backtrack, clarify your statement, even make a joke about it – and people will be okay with it. People aren’t there to watch the greatest public speaker ever, they’re there for you. They want to hear what you know. All you have to do is to make it clear and understandable. Teach.
Public speaking is part of your life as a business development professional or entrepreneur. You’ll have to talk to groups, from potential investors, customers, and to your employees. There’s no need to be afraid, because most of the time they’re already willing to listen. You don’t need to be perfect, so don’t hold yourself to that impossible standard. Take a deep breath, and relax. You’ve got this.