Public Speaking – Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!

Public SpeakingThe ‘Book of Lists’ reports the Top Three Human Fears as…

  1. Speaking before a Group
  2. Heights
  3. Insects and bugs

So how do we conquer this fear of public speaking if it forms part of our job? 

Toastmasters International suggests the following tips:

  • Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech.  Use humour, personal stories and conversational language.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using.  Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
  • Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
  • Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
  • Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
  • Visualise yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualise the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
  • Realise that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
  • Don’t apologise for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
  • Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
  • Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you — as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking.

I recently had to give a Testimonial on stage at The Pampered Chef Leadership Event.  As a Trainer I am used to standing up in front of people in a training environment, however standing up and delivering a speech to your peers is a very different situation!

How did I prepare for this?

I wrote my speech and on the day I had a prompt to read from, however I still needed to ensure I made it safely onto the stage without falling over!  I was very nervous but made a point of not telling the roomful of people about my nerves!  I took a deep breath, introduced myself and read my speech without speaking too quickly.  I needed to be clear, concise and project my voice well even though I was speaking into microphones.  I aimed my words to the back of the room above people’s heads to begin with, however as my confidence increased I found myself making eye contact with individuals in the audience through the glare of the stage lighting, and going off-script occasionally if I wanted to really clarify a point.  Whilst I was reading from a script, I tried to make it sound as natural as possible so that everyone knew it was about me and not a corporate script written for me.  I tried to come across as confident without sounding arrogant and stayed in control throughout.  Unbelievably my ten minutes on stage flew by without any drama and I actually enjoyed it even though I can’t remember certain parts of it!

So what would my final advice be – even though I am in no way an expert in this matter?

Try to relax, know your subject matter, and engage with the group.  And lastly …… try to enjoy the experience!

Guest post by Heather Tarrant

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