Question: Recently I was asked to speak before an industry group. I’m very nervous about giving this presentation. How can I get rid of the butterflies and give a talk for which I can be proud?
Answer: Public speaking offers a terrific opportunity to share knowledge and gain exposure for your organization and yourself. And yet it’s something that a large percentage of the population fears . . . even dreads. Why is that? I believe that the main reason is that we are so afraid of what other people will think of us. What if we make a mistake? Will we be viewed as not having the expertise that we want to project? Perhaps we measure ourselves against the lofty speaking styles of those we perceive to be great orators.
As with most things, successful public speaking is all about mindset. We can allow the fear to consume us or we can turn the tables and actually embrace the opportunity. Think about this. The choice is very clear – consuming fear or a joyful embrace. Assuming that we choose to embrace the opportunity we then must continuously affirm how positively excited and grateful we are to be making the presentation. Making this choice is Step One in the process.
Step Two is to determine the style of speaking that is best suited for us. I detest standing behind a podium and reading a speech. Instead, I need to connect with my audience. I’ve adopted a style where I take a microphone and walk around the room – almost like a town hall format. I ask questions of the audience and encourage their feedback throughout my presentation. Thus, I do not put myself in situations where I can’t adapt the presentation to my style. And when I’ve been asked to stand behind a podium and read a speech, I’m generally able to re-work the format into my walk-around more casual approach. Finding the right style of speaking is a critical step toward a successful presentation.
Step Three is to practice, practice and practice. I recommend that you practice your presentation at least three times in front of other people if possible. The more you practice the more confident you will become. Practice also will allow you to become more fluid in your delivery and to fine tune some of the details that you wish to present.
So, now we have continuously embraced the opportunity with a positive attitude. We have developed a speaking style that is just right for us. And we’ve practiced our presentation multiple times. Now the moment of truth has arrived and perhaps we’re feeling a little jittery. Try “leaning into” the jitters. Instead of allowing them to nibble at our confidence, we turn the anxiety into excitement. Try exclaiming, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make the best presentation I’ve ever made in my life!” Say it multiple times along with a few deep breaths, and we’re ready to rock-and-roll.
Speaking in public is an honor. Presenting over and over ensures that we’ll become highly proficient. And then the feeling we get when we’re finished is that of supreme satisfaction.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.