Get Past Your Fear of Public Speaking, Part 1

Whether presenting to a group of clients, room of colleagues or your own staff, taking center stage can cause anxiety and fear in the most able person. In fact, public speaking ranks as a top anxiety-producer in a whopping 74% of us, and is downright debilitating in nearly 20% of all people. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some techniques that can help reduce that anxiety and will, I hope, bring you to a new level of confidence when presenting to groups.

Through my work with groups on presentation skills I’ve learned there are six common fears about public speaking:
• Forgetting what I’m going to say
• Not reacting appropriately to questions or unknown situations
• Not appearing to be a subject expert
• Losing my train of thought or getting lost in my notes
• Boring people
• Showing signs of stress like sweating or coughing or mumbling

And the things people really value in other speakers are their ability to seem calm, to interact with their audience and to make an interesting, meaningful presentation.

You can overcome your fears and you can learn to make valuable presentations. It takes time, attention and practice, but I’m going to share some tips that I use everyday.

Step 1:  Program Your Brain

Nothing is flawless, nothing is perfect. Even professional speakers like me make mistakes – the mic doesn’t work or we have a coughing fit or maybe even get distracted and forget what we were talking about. What strong speakers do have in common is the ability to get past the bump and enjoy the rest of the ride.

Rather than focusing on what could go wrong and how much you dread public speaking start re-programing your brain. Create a mantra for yourself that supports success. Your brain will do what you tell it to, so give it the right message. Sounds simplistic, I know. But it’s no different than an athlete getting psyched for a game or getting in “the zone.”

Repeat after me: This presentation is a great opportunity for me, and I will do a very good job.

Now repeat again. And again. And again. The next time someone asks how the presentation is coming do not say how you’re dreading it, how you wish someone else would step up or that you hate public speaking. Those are negative statements and your brain will believe you. Instead say “It’s a great opportunity for me and I look forward to doing a good job for our company (or firm or group).

Check back for my posts on Steps 2 thru 5.