We’ve heard it before. The fear of public speaking is right up there with death. I did a quick search to see what kinds of fears people were talking about these days, and found some great articles on overcoming them.
One in the Huffington Post listed some common fears as:
- Ticking Clock Syndrome: Feeling as though your life is not where it should be
- I’m a Fraud: We are secretly afraid that people will find out we don’t know what we are doing
- Who’s watching me? Thinking that all eyes are on us
- Fear that we don’t compare
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of disappointment
- Fear of ridicule
All of these are really powerful fears and we have to face them every day. The reason public speaking ranks WAY up there is that it essentially combines all these fears into one! I wrote previously about Eckhart Tolle an his book the Power of Now. Tolle tells us that when we are feeling insecure, we revert back to our most insecure times, which was typically during high school and we felt most vulnerable. Just understand that’s normal!
Okay, let’s get to public speaking tips!
If you look up “overcoming the fear of public speaking,” most of the articles you’ll find talk about all the tips on working on yourself. How to overcome fear, doubt, insecurity, etc. Alot of them will talk about breathing exercises, posture, and even tricks to take your mind off things. Well, I will just say that some of that stuff is great, but most of it is BULLSHIT.
Today is not about fear. It’s about ACTION.
Think about it. You already feel scared, insecure, and unprepared. So does adding more to think about make it easier? No way!
Here are my top three tips for public speaking:
TIP #1 – Make it about them
Have you ever had a pimple? And did you think that EVERYONE was staring at it? “Oh no, what will they think?” “My life is ruined!” But in reality, others are so focused on their own lives to even notice all the things that are bothering us. The same goes for public speaking. Get your ego and insecurity out of the way!
As outlined above, when we get in front of people we’re so scared to look silly, be exposed as a fraud, and worried about being rejected. Stop worrying about how you look, how you sound, and what words you will use. Instead, think about how you will make them feel when you speak. How can you connect with your audience? Can you make eye contact with one person at a time and give your message as if you are speaking to the individual? Can you get just one person to smile or cry?
My litmus test is how many people I can get nodding to my message. As soon as I learned that no one gives a shit about me on stage and that they want to know what’s in it for them, it gave me FREEDOM as a speaker. Seriously. No more fear, just a passion to add value through public speaking – regardless of the audience.
What I suggest you do instead of focusing on your stuff, is think about the problems the audience may be having, ask good questions to get them engaged, and share some insights that will help THEM (Instead of trying to sound smart). Try and ask questions where you elicit a response. Make your presentation interactive. Speaking should be all about how you can make an impact on others, not about how YOU look or sound. Go get some nodding heads.
Tip #2 – Don’t memorize
This is a trap that most speakers fall into. The dreaded, over-preparation. Let’s call it Preparation-H (or Preparation HELL). I see so many speakers worried that they will miss something and then they freeze up. Let’s keep it simple.
First off, I hope you have knowledge on whatever topic you will be speaking about. If not, I would suggest you politely decline to speak! But let’s assume you do have the knowledge. People want to hear you naturally speak on a subject you are knowledgeable about and memorizing makes it so hard to do that. You don’t need to memorize your speeches, but instead, break them down into your main key points. And break those points further down and then figure out your timing.
Respect the time you are given and make the most of it. For example, if you are speaking for 30 minutes, break it down into maybe 20 minutes of speaking and ten minutes of Q & A. In those 20 minutes, break it down like this:
- 2-3 minute intro
- 5 minutes on section one
- 5 minutes on section two
- 5 minutes on section three
- 2-3 minutes summary and one main take-away to apply the lesson
For each of those three sections, have three main talking points, so altogether you have only 9 things to remember. Prepare good information on each of those points. If you get stuck or lost, move to the next point. You will find it so much easier and your style will be way more free-flowing.
Say it from the heart. Say what you know. Some of the best speeches I have given were spur of the moment – no time to prepare, so break it down into bite size pieces and go give em the goods.
Tip #3 – Be human
Don’t even get me started on the horrible Powerpoint presentations I’ve sat through over the years. if you want to read an awesome presentation book for slides, pick up Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Awesome stuff.
If you are like me, you enjoy a speaker who is natural, engaging, funny, insightful, or thought-provoking. Be someone others want to connect with, but not just on stage. Be the person you would like to meet. If you go back to the concept of the audience of one, how you can uniquely solve their problems, and be someone who they would like to build a genuine relationship with…you win!
So forget about YOUR fears, and focus on the value you add to the audience. The best way for us to overcome any of our fears is to turn them into strengths when people need us the most. If someone is sick, dying, or afraid, will you step up and help them? Because when you’re speaking in front of an audience, they need your help. Turn your fears into strengths for them and deliver kick-ass value.
I would love to hear your comments and presentation ideas! And if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to get more content like this:
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