Being asked to speak in front of others is such a privilege and the thought can be exhilarating. Once the excitement wears off you may be left with your friends Nerve and Anxiety. To distract yourself from these two twerps, you focus on writing every word of your speech and practicing it over and over again. Your friends become more obnoxious hours before the speech and utterly intolerable minutes before walking in to the spotlight. In front of the crowd, you attempt to hide your friends and soon the room begins to narrow, your stomach and chest knot up in panic, but you keep going on with what you practiced. After a few minutes your friends realize they no longer have your attention and they leave the stage - handing it all over to you.
Sound familiar? Maybe you would add your friends Shyness and Uncertain to the mix. That's fine! Bring all your friends because we are going to learn how to embrace them and include them in your speech.
These are my Four Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking:
1. Know your material well - so well that you could have a 15 minute conversation about it with a stranger. An engaging presentation is much like a conversation with a stranger, not like reading word-by-word from the page grasped firmly in your hand. If you need to start out the conversation by asking yourself a question, do it. Think about it, how many speakers ask themselves "the question" - many do, because it works. Start off with a short and compelling story and then ask yourself a question. Spend the rest of the speech answering the question based on your knowledge and examples of the material.
Examples of this practice: How to Make Toast, Business Openness, Discovered in NYC
2. Identify your friends and give them nicknames. If Nerve makes you feel like you have pins and needles all over your body, if Shyness makes you feel short of breath, if Uncertain makes you doubt yourself, and if Anxiety makes you shake and your voice quiver - take notice and identify what each friend does for you. Now, you can bundle your friends into one group - much like Google+ or your cell phone provider - and give the group a nickname, or you can give each friend a nickname. My friends are grouped together and I call them Shazam. Naming my friends Shazam allows me to identify when they are present and the name is pretty motivating as well. Next time your friends are bugging you, just say their name out loud and roll your eyes or laugh at them.
3. Realize that your friends are totally normal. Everyone has the same friends, maybe not all of them, but many of them. Although some of them may be more obnoxious than others, your friends are good. If you didn't have these friends hanging around, it would be a big red flag that you don't care about the audience and/or the material you are sharing.
4. Welcome your friends and embrace them instead of trying to hide them. Hiding your friends only makes them act up more. By embracing your friends and realizing they are normal your level of stress decreases and you are more patient and better able to walk your friends off the stage.
When you speak and are honestly representing yourself, the audience is more compelled to listen - even if you are nervous or uncomfortable. If you attempt to suppress these feelings, it actually emphasizes your reactions to the audience and can make them uncomfortable or distract them from the true value of what you have to share.
April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.
Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.
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