Terrified of Public Speaking?
Those great ideas rattling around in your head are meaningless if you can’t clearly present them to the people who need to hear your voice and be convinced you have the information they need.
Imagine sitting in a meeting with twenty people. The group is discussing ideas to solve a major problem your company is encountering. The floor is open, and your team leader is asking for new ways to solve an old problem.
You know you have the idea that could make a difference, but you hesitate to talk because you are terrified of speaking in front of any sized group, even a group of your peers, so you say nothing letting others, more confident but maybe less talented, take the lead
The ability to express yourself, clearly and confidently, is one of the lost arts of business, and also life. We spend years developing our expertise, but then spend little time learning how to communicate what we know to people who need to hear us.
The need for powerful personal expression is not limited to a business setting. Writers who master public speaking can create careers as consultants and lecturers. Teachers who gain advanced speaking skills can change the outcome of many more lives than one who possess the knowledge but also the inability to communicate clearly what he or she knows and believes.
If you are getting interviewed for a job you are giving a presentation. If you are asking for a raise, you are expressing what you do and how it benefits the company. If you are a poet who writes magic, the magic can be spread to bigger groups as a speaker to those who want to hear your voice, and your own interpretation of your work.
Power through public speaking is often the missing ingredient in a career. How many technically competent people never get promoted to jobs they deserve because of their inability to communicate what they need done to the staff that works for them?
Fear of public speaking has for decades ranked higher than fear of almost anything else one could imagine.
If given a choice, many people would rather jump into a pit of spiders and snakes, wrestle zombies, and be stuck with needles than stand in front of two hundred people and give a presentation
Here are the Top Ten Phobias according to The Washington Post:
1. Public speaking (glossophobia)
2. Heights (acrophobia)
3. Bugs and insects (entomophobia)
4. Drowning (aquaphobia)
5. Bloods and needles (trypanophobia)
6. Enclosed in small spaces/no escape (claustrophobia)
7. Flying (aviophobia)
8. Strangers (xenophobia)
9. Zombies (kinemortophobia)
10. Darkness (nyctophobia)
This fear of public speaking can also severely affect your career. According to Peter Khoury in an article written for Magnetic Speaking, fear of public speaking has a ten percent impairment on wages, a ten percent impairment on college graduation, and a fifteen percent impairment of promotion to management. Yet knowing this, only about eight percent of those who have public speaking fear seek professional help and training.
What can you do?
Your fear of public speaking does not disappear without work, but you can get this fear under control and move yourself up to a higher level of participation in your work and life
Read extensively about how it is done
Information is confidence. The more you understand about speaking, the less nervous you will be. As in all skill sets, there is a pattern that can be learned and mastered.
Solid presenters are not born that way, they master their own information, then become competent at the skills it takes to consistently be effective as a speaker.
Here is a working list of good books to have on your shelf as career development tools. The first two authors might be enough to get you started then work down the list if you want to understand speaking more deeply:
· The Naked Presenter and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
· Slide:ology (This is the correct spelling) by Nancy Duarte
· How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
· The Art of Public Speaking by Stephen Lucas
· Stage Fight by Cody Smith
· The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
· Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
· Resonate by Nancy Duarte
You are searching for two distinct paths in your reading. First of all, you should learn how to be a presenter on stage, including working through your anxiety, dress, audience interaction and speaking techniques. Remember these skills work sitting across the desk from your boss as well as standing in front of a room of hundreds.
Secondly, you need to understand the technical side of creating a presentation. Death by bullet point is a real thing in speaking and several of the books listed here help you think about building presentations that enhance your ideas, not restrict them.
For many who live in fear of public speaking, just being able to clearly express an idea to your peers is a breakthrough. You may never stand on a stage in front of hundreds, but you will have employees gathered around you who need leadership and an understanding as to what you want done, and how to do it.
Asking questions in a workshop, taking the lead in a meeting, or presenting information to a perspective buyer of your product or service, are all first steps for someone who lives in the back of the room and is terrified of expressing their views, or who depends on others to carry the day.
Consider taking a class or getting a coach; the confidence you will develop is worth the investment
If you believe learning to be a more proficient public speaker would enhance your career or life, then invest in a coach or take a public speaking course.
If you own a small company, consider hiring a speaking coach to do a workshop for your team on site. Trade the cost in your mind versus the reward of having a team that can better communicate with clients, who can present what you do more clearly to potential clients, and who can communicate amongst your group more efficiently and clearly.
If you are an employee that wants to get more out of what you do, look at the ones ahead of you and compare your ability to communicate and lead with theirs. The ones at top of any organization are usually technically competent at what they do, but more importantly, they have the ability to express themselves more strongly and clearly than most of the others who want their job.
Again, if you are not in business, but want to consult or share your ideas and work with others, get a coach. David Sedaris, the prolific writer, has a strong second career travelling the world doing readings of his writing, usually to packed houses.
Good coaches can get you where you need to be, past the anxiety and into being an efficient communicator in any circumstance.
Practice on your peers
You are not the only one in your office who suffers from fear of speaking. Get a group together and practice giving short presentations to each other. Just doing this will overcome a lot of the fear of the unknown. You presented, you were nervous, but you didn’t die.
If you are a leader in any environment, make it part of your monthly training. Get people together on a Friday afternoon when everyone is tired and just spend an hour letting everyone take a turn standing and presenting an idea. The team gets confidence and you might get good ideas usually held back by the shy folks who never speak.
Learn to create effective presentations; decent slides set you free
Good presentations set the presenter free to talk. Bad presentations lock you into Power Point hell making you rigid and ineffective.
Good slides cue you to talk. The slides are there to keep you on track and on pace but should never replace you as a speaker.
Most modern presentations are visual in nature dependent on full screen images with as few as words possible, allowing the speaker to turn and express the key points associated with that slide.
Master the slides then your presentation automatically gets better because you are free to be you, and not restricted by too many words on poorly designed slides from 1995.
Master your information so you can explain it to a one-person audience
Good presentations are one idea at a time presented clearly. They are sequential and clearly build as your talk progresses.
Giving a ten-minute talk to one person as practice forces you to master your own ideas. In this ten-minute practice segment, you might have your main point and three sub-points that support and explain the main idea.
If you can talk for ten-minutes, and organize your material to define an idea and support it with several minor points, you have accomplished more than others who are afraid of speaking but never move past that fear.
Fear of speaking is fear of the unknown. The more you learn and practice, the more the anxiety fades. Your career, and life too, can improve when you find the ability within yourself to clearly express your ideas and what you want