How many people do you know that love to get up in front of a group of people and give a speech? Out of the hundreds of people in your immediate network, there may be one or two people who can tolerate or even enjoy public speaking. And then there are the rest of us. Plagued by sweaty palms, dry mouth and weak knees, we are fearful of the experience. Some of us even admit to downright loathing it. And some of us actually create excuses to avoid it all together.
This blog is not about how to write a speech. This blog is focused on how to over come the very real anxiety associated with placing ourselves at the center of attention. Did you know that some people report that they are less afraid of dying than they are of public speaking?!
‘According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.’ –Jerry Seinfeld
Although it’s unlikely that people are actually more afraid of public speaking than dying, the point is that people equate public speaking with some of their biggest fears.
So what to do? How do you get over the fear associated with public speaking? There are hundreds of books, articles, blog, podcasts and tips for you to choose from when you start down this path. To cut through the clutter, you’ve got to be prepared. And what does this type of preparation entail? You must develop and communicate the key points of your presentation/speech with precision and clarity. And you must practice. Drill down on what you want to convey. Grab your bathroom mirror and get ready to repeat your speech over and over again until you are so comfortable that you feel like you’re talking to an old friend.
It’s completely impossible to memorize every word of your speech. You’re not supposed to. But you must become a subject matter expert in your speech content. Take the time to create a PowerPoint to practice. On each slide, place one to five words, which symbolize each point you will need to make in your presentation. Place them in order, and then ask a friend to run your presentation while you practice. If you don’t have PowerPoint, use flash cards.
As you go through each practice session, it should become easier for you to elaborate on each slide/card more effectively and coherently. Your confidence will grow as you become immersed in the details.
If public speaking gives you crippling anxiety such that you are sincerely unable to speak, you may want to seek professional help to deal with the problem. Many people are truly paralyzed by the thought of getting up in front of a group of people to say anything at all. There are many therapies, which don’t include medication, that may help you conquer your fears.
Force yourself to do more than you ever thought you could. Don’t expect to be perfect on your first or second go round. Please remember that public speaking is like exercise, the more you do it, the better you become.