Did you know that public speaking is the most common fear in the world? More than sharks, spiders and tsunamis combined? For most of us, the idea of standing up in front of a group of people and talking – about anything – is like a nightmare of epic proportions.
Some of us do it regularly – I know I do. And as you might think, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Well – not easier, per se, but more normal. It’s an odd feeling to have every eye on YOU and to know that for a set period of time, you must entertain, educate and in some way please a large number of total strangers.
The difference between someone accustomed to public speaking and someone who is not is that the nervousness you feel just before speaking gets translated into high energy while speaking – rather than nerves that ruin your ability to speak. Same nerves – different response to it. Depends on why you are speaking. Maybe it’s at a wedding, or maybe it’s a business meeting and you have a lot on the line.
Having a lot on the line can actually really make the nerves worse.
Here’s what I do:
I focus on about three or four parts of the room and move back and forth between them. If I have a friend listening and I know that, I avoid looking at them.
I remind myself that I am very good at what I do and what I know and that talking about it is no different.
I remind myself that the people at the talk or conference WANT to hear what I have to say. They are interested. They signed up. I’m already ahead of the game.
I do not practice.
But I do watch the time.
I have prepared more to talk about or do than the time allotted – just in case.
I leave time for pauses, for questions, for interactivity.
I talk to people the way I enjoy being talked to. Personally, entertainingly.
If I make a mistake or an error – I acknowledge it and keep going. I am human. Because am I relaxed about this possibility, I rarely make mistakes.
I write out bullet points only on index cards and use them as my notes. Simply writing them down is practice enough. I know my stuff.
I speak the same way to six people as I do to 1,000 people. It makes no difference, in actuality.
I love speaking and teaching. If it were torture for me, I wouldn’t do it.
If you find yourself in a situation where you HAVE to speak publicly and yet you’ve never done it or really fear it – there are some steps you can take (many of which are listed above) and I am available to coach you through your event.
Here are a few more tips:
Don’t memorize what you have to say – it will sound memorized.
Use notes as jumping off or talking points.
Don’t try to take in the whole room, narrow your focus.
Relax, you were asked to speak because you have something to say.
And some more tips about avoiding “ums” and “uhs”.