Speaking in public terrifies many people. In fact, for some, fear of public speaking is reported to be stronger than fear of death. This level of alarm can compromise home business owners who may still have to attend business meetings or speak in public to market their wares.
I make my living standing in front of large groups to speak or lead seminars and workshops. I’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years and I’m pretty good at it. I am not a “natural speaker” in the sense that I can do it without some anxiety, but I’ve learned a number of strategies to make it easy for me. Foremost is the realization that members of the audience have no idea about how I feel. They don’t know if I am nervous. They do not know if I am struggling to remember what I want to say. They don’t even really know for sure that I know what I’m talking about.
Worrying about what people think about you when you speak is the chief concern of most people. However, an audience is usually prepared to give a speaker the benefit of the doubt. Think of the last time you heard someone speak in public. Did you bother to try to assess the speaker’s mental status? Did the thought even occur to you? Of course not and no one is assessing you as you speak either. So that brings us to Rule number one.
- The concern you have about what other people are thinking is 100% a creation of your own mind. You are scaring yourself.
You have a choice. You can imagine the audience as critical or as approving along with the hope you will succeed. This is entirely under your control. You cannot read their minds so make a positive choice. Surveys show that, except in extraordinary circumstances, the audience will view you positively. After all, they came to hear you talk or they want your participation in a meeting.
Here are some other tips and guidelines.
2. Prepare your speech or comments carefully and practice. This applies even to meetings where your comments are expected to be spontaneous.
3. Anticipate questions people might ask. You cannot know what everyone might ask, but if you know the topic for discussion you can anticipate a lot of the questions. Practice your answers. It doesn’t matter if you are not asked those specific questions because you will gain confidence you can handle whatever comes up and this will diminish your nervousness.
4. At the beginning tell your audience what you are going to talk about and at the end give a brief summary of what you said. This is part of any good speech, but you will gain additional control of your apprehension because you told your listeners what to expect and you can be confident you are all on the same page.
5. Do not tell the audience you are nervous. They cannot see or hear your anxiety.
6. Memorize the outline of your speech, but not the details. A memorized speech may come across as artificial and stilted. Prepare well enough so that you can talk about the subject matter extemporaneously. With an outline firmly in mind, or on note cards, you will have confidence that you will not lose your way.
7. Don’t try to be a comedian and never begin your remarks with a joke. If you want to tell a joke, save it for later. Jokes often come across as artificial and awkward. And the joke has to flow smoothly and naturally from your subject matter.
8. When responding to questions, you can say “I don’t know” without giving away any of your authority or credibility. In fact, your audience will think highly of you for being forthright. Of course, there is a limit to how often you can say that you do not know. If you answer the majority of questions that way you will lose some of your authority.
Consider telling the questioner to approach you after the meeting and you will try to track down an answer to their question.
9. Ignore people who advise you to relax or don’t be nervous. Chances are pretty good that you’ve already tried. Accept the fact that you will be nervous. Use the energy it gives you to animate your talk. Follow the advice above and you will give a successful speech even if you are nervous; next time you will be a little less so.
10. If your business requires you to speak frequently in meetings or in front of large groups, take a public speaking class. Toastmasters, a national organization, offers programs. So does your public library or community college.
You will learn some techniques, but, more important, you will have a chance to practice speaking in front of classmates who have the same concerns as you do. You can trust them to tell you what aspects of your speech worked and what did not. They can give you feedback on how you appeared your speaking style, and your grasp of your subject.
Once you have mastered your fear of public speaking you may get a bonus. With the barrier to speaking removed, you will be able to consider markets and marketing strategies for your business that you may have felt were closed to you in the past.
The post 10 Simple Rules to Master Your Fear of Public Speaking appeared first on Home Business Magazine.