One of the quickest and easiest ways to build credibility and authority as a leader in your industry or field of expertise is through public speaking appearances. Yet, fear of public speaking strikes many.
Yet, the mere thought of getting up in front of some number of people and talking in any kind of coherent manner – whether familiar with the persons in the audience or not and no matter how large the group –is enough to make some literally sick with dread and anticipation.
I get it. It feels like there is so much at risk when you put yourself out there in front of others and share your thoughts, feelings, or knowledge. So many things can race through your mind, it seems there is no way you can bring forth what you have to say logically. Or even remember what you wanted to say in the first place…
What if they think what you’re saying is boring?
What if they don’t believe or buy in to your ideas?
What if they disagree with you?
What if they consider you ‘stupid’ or unintelligent?
What if they wonder what the heck you are doing standing in front of them at all?
Considering all of these things, a slight nervousness can turn into full-blown panic.
But did you know… the root of all this apprehension can be traced to one single factor? One little thing that if addressed – above all else – can pretty much get rid of fear of public speaking for most everyone?
The one key is this…
The secret to get over a fear of public speaking is proper preparation.
You may be feeling let down right now. You may be feeling a little ripped off. But it really is that simple. Of course, the “secret” to that key is the word “proper”.
Many people prepare for a public speaking engagement pretty much the same as everyone else. They pick their topic, maybe make a presentation, probably prepare some notes, and run through their speech a few times.
And that’s fine – I guess – if public speaking is “your thing”. If you speak to audiences with grace and finesse naturally, wonderful! If you don’t, then the standard preparation won’t cut it.
Think about it… For most people, the apprehension around speaking in public revolves around what could go wrong. Yet, as with anything – there are things that could go wrong. Consider something relatively simple like throwing a dinner party. How do you mitigate the chance of something going wrong as much as possible? You plan all the details. You think about potential glitches and then you plan for those. You consider every aspect of the event and most likely – even subconsciously – you do a dry run (probably several times) in your mind to make sure you’ve thought of everything.
Proper preparation for speaking in public or to a group, is really no different. When you are thoroughly prepared, you eliminate the fear of something going wrong, and this goes a long way to eliminate the fear of public speaking in general.
Proper preparation – preparation that helps eliminate fear of public speaking for the average person – hinges on the five following steps:
- Know your speaking situation. This refers to the logistics. Understanding the specifics means you don’t have to worry about unknown variables. Where will you be speaking? Who is your audience? How large will the audience be? Why will they be there? Will you be behind a podium, at a table, or standing in front of the room? How far away will your audience be? What will the lighting be like? What is the dress code?
- Know your topic well. It’s often best to plan your specific topic – down to the title of your speech – with the event organizer. If that’s you, then be specific when you announce what you will be speaking about prior to the event. The more precise you can be regarding the subject, the better you can prepare what you will say. Make sure to look for the angle that you can speak to easily and with knowledge. This will make you much more comfortable with the content of your speech and more at ease with the situation overall.
- Get organized. First, don’t procrastinate. Get organized with your speech or presentation at least several days in advance when possible. Outline your topic. Come up with examples for key points, in advance. Will you use any visual aids? If so, know exactly when you will use them. If you will ask questions, anticipate the answers you may get and how you will respond to them.
- Practice – and practice with others. Practice giving your full speech or presentation out loud. Don’t just skim through the main points, but walk through the entire thing at least a few times. Then, enlist a friend, your partner, or even your children, and perform the speech for them. If you really don’t want to do that – or can’t – then record the (audio only) of your speech in its entirety. You don’t even need to listen to it. Just the act of recording yourself will take your practice to a different level. *** But very importantly – DON’T write out your entire speech. If you practice properly, you won’t need a full written speech and with many people, if you write it all out, the tendency will be to read it. And that will totally diminish your overall presentation most negatively. Again, if you prepare and practice enough, it won’t be necessary and people respond much more positively (even to ‘mistakes’ such as stumbles) when they feel like you are talking ‘to’ them instead of ‘at’ them.
- Visualize yourself successfully delivering your speech or presentation. After you have practiced out loud several times – alone and with others when possible – visually replay yourself successfully giving your speech or presentation in your mind several times. Again, while it’s ideal if you are able to picture yourself with perfect delivery, that won’t always be the case. Especially if public speaking is still a really foreign thing to you that brings up much apprehension. So in this visualization, if you see yourself stumble or forgetting a line (or two!), also picture yourself laughing it off and calmly finding your rhythm again by referencing a notecard, making a little joke, or whatever it takes to get yourself relaxed again. But in the end, remember, your audience will respond to you and how you deal with any situation. Draw them in to you throughout your speech and a small hiccup will go virtually unnoticed.
So, yes, it really is that simple. The key to eliminate a fear of public speaking is simply to prepare. Properly.
Susan Sly is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.