It’s by no means uncommon to have a fear of public speaking, but it’s a fear that must be overcome in the business world, especially after registering a company. While not everyone will be out speaking on panels or keynoting at events right off the bat, it’s highly likely that you’ll be presenting to investors or business prospects following incorporation. Overcoming the initial fear and nervousness is the first step in delivering a successful speech or presentation – the rest is about providing value for the audience.
Here are some helpful guidelines to consider as you improve your public speaking skills:
- Knowledge boosts confidence. Before giving a speech you might feel like you’re going to forget to say something important. To avoid this, be sure to come thoroughly prepared and study the topic of your speech or presentation far in advance. If you know it inside and out, you will be much less likely to suffer from a serious case of the nerves.
- Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse out loud. This will help you to grow comfortable with speech itself. It will also help you focus, and build confidence from reciting your portion time and time again. Writing the speech down will help you feel more prepared as well. While typing the speech is fine, writing it longhand will be even more effective since you are using multiple senses.
- Learn your triggers. Most people have specific fears. Knowing what it is that makes you afraid of speaking can help you relax and address the fear head on. If your problem is the fact that you will be giving a talk to a room full of strangers (a common fear), arrive a few minutes early and greet some of the guests so that it will feel more like giving a short talk to friends. If your trigger is a lack of knowledge, then do more research, study and preparation.
- Pay attention to the message. When giving a speech, remember to focus on the message. Have a clear picture of what you want the audience to take away and deliver this message in a clear and concise manner. Some of the most memorable and powerful speeches of all time were not written in sophisticated language nor did they take forever to recite. The Gettysburg Address was only 246 words and took less than 5 minutes to deliver; legend has it that President Lincoln initially thought this speech was a failure.
- Add a personal touch. A great way to design, write and deliver a speech is to use a few anecdotes. Picking a few stories or examples to prove your point can also make everything relatable to your audience. Do not over complicate this; it really is quite simple.
- Be relevant to your audience. The bottom line to delivering a speech is that you need to help your audience solve a problem. It helps to define this big problem first. Then you should talk about how your area of expertise is the solution. Your initial job is to answer the two major questions all audiences have: Why am I here (listening to this speech), and why should I care about this?
Successful public speaking is about preparation, knowledge and emotion. Knowing your topic and being well prepared can also serve to help overcome a fair amount of nervousness (the rest you just need to give yourself permission to accept and move on). Practice ahead of time, ideally out loud and in front of a small audience. Try to connect with the audience by focusing on what they will get out of the speech; answer their two burning questions up front and be authentic and excited. Even if you are not enjoying yourself, acting like you are will create a positive presence, help you connect with the audience and create a lasting impression.