Overcoming Your Fear Of…
Recently we introduced the topic of public speaking–the great fears and the great benefits. What good are all of these benefits if an individual cannot bear to utter more than one word to a group of two individuals without turning to jelly? Many would love to use the power of public speaking but don’t see any way of making it happen. They might as well be standing on one side of the grand canyon with a pot of gold on the other side.
Fortunately, for those who are highly motivated the fear of public speaking can be conquered. We just need to recognize that overcoming our fear of public speaking will take hard work, determination and patience. All worthy goals are achieved one step at a time. You cannot expect to go away for a week and come back from a program as an accomplished speaker.
The key to achieving great public speaking abilities are in the 4 P’s:
There is no factor which is more important than practice. No baseball player makes it to the major leagues without practice. No sales person becomes a top producer without practice.
It is practice which leads us to make progress one step at a time. If you had to appear before 300 people but your only task was to utter the word “you,” the situation would not seem as ominous. Well, start by practicing small segments of a talk: just a few sentences. Use something with which you are very familiar–for example, if you are selling real estate relate your first home buying experience. Perhaps you were totally scared over a payment which was $400 per month 20 years ago.
Practice these sentences by yourself, using a mirror so that you can practice your speaking gestures as well. Perhaps you are biting your lip as you speak. Tape yourself so that you can hear your voice. Many times we cannot hear ourselves inserting a you know after sentences because this represents an ingrained habit.
After you have practiced these few sentences hundreds of times, start practicing in front of those you know–your pets, your family and your friends. Then move up to a tougher audience–your peers in a sales meeting. Perhaps you could get together with several other sales people and perform together. This is the concept of Toastmasters: a group of people helping each other improve their public speaking abilities. Toastmaster meetings are a great place to learn and practice.
Practice makes you more comfortable with the material because you know it so well. Preparation makes you comfortable with the engagement because it puts you in command of the situation.
We suggest your first official speaking engagement be for only a few people. If you are already a sales person, you should be comfortable giving a sales pitch one-on-one. The next step is to deliver this pitch to a few people. How can you prepare?
- Speak to the participants ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with their background and their expectations. Later on when you speak to larger groups, you can interview one or two leading members of the audience and customize your remarks to match their needs. This works for general substance and details such as the proper dress.
- Arrive at the place at least one hour ahead of time. Look over the lighting, seating arrangements and acoustics. Fix anything which needs to be fixed now, before the group arrives.
- Use handouts, slides, overhead transparencies, and/or notes. Being prepared with your visual aids will assure that you will not lose your place. Do not read from your notes: this is what practice is supposed to eliminate. It is perfectly acceptable to refer to your notes periodically. Handouts or slides with bulleted points serve as great visual effects for participants and as a guide for you.
The proper preparation is no less important if you are talking to three people or four. All the practice in the world will not help unless you are prepared for anything which can happen. When you are prepared for a disaster you no longer will fear that calamity. You are now ready to perform next month!