Public Speaking–5 Ways to Ditch Your Fear for Good

In many surveys over the years, people have ranked the fear of public speaking as worse than the fear of dying!  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, networking for your business is going to involve public speaking.  You may find yourself giving a sixty-second elevator pitch at a networking meeting, a ten-minute presentation at a chamber function, or a forty-minute educational presentation to a prospect.

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The following 5 strategies are my top tips to help you lose your fear of public speaking and start winning over your audiences with confidence.

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Don’t wing it!  Prepare an outline of what you want to say and practice it.  Use note cards, or type your remarks out on a piece of paper.  (Print with large handwriting or type in a large font–make it ridiculously easy to read so you don’t lose your place in the paragraph.)  Don’t over-prepare though; this can just lead to more anxiety.

2)  Be specific and talk about the things you know best.  At networking meetings, don’t try to teach people everything you do in one short pitch.  Think in terms of teaching the audience something of significance.  Focus on just one or two areas of your business–the topics you feel you understand best.  This will increase your comfort level and reduce stress.

3)  Use handouts, visuals, or PowerPoint slides to support your presentation.  If you’re worried about stage fright, props such as books, slides, handouts, or gadgets will help you keep your mind on your topic, add a special element of interest to your presentation, and give the audience something to concentrate on besides you.  PowerPoint can be a great tool, but it becomes a noticeable crutch if you fall into the trap of reading from the slides.  PowerPoint should support your presentation, not be your presentation.  Read a few of the many books and articles available about how to effectively use PowerPoint.

4) Remember, you’re the expert.  It’s true.  In the eyes of the audience, you are the expert and they want to hear what you have to say.  They’re eager to learn something from you.  If you focus on what you know best, you will feel more confident and be more credible.  Believe in yourself and in your message.

5)  Be creative.  Find a way to communicate that makes you comfortable.  Instead of talking to a group, engage them in conversation; or start with Q & A, and then answer at length.  Don’t be afraid to be different.  Surprise your audience.  Walk around the stage or up into the seats.  People get tired of the same old approach and are invigorated by something unexpected.  Have fun with your message; it will help you turn your nervous energy into positive energy.  The audience will feel it and radiate it back to you, and before you know it, your anxiety is gone.

Here’s the deal . . . you can’t get better at something if you never practice it and the best time to start practicing is now.  So, start this coming week off by looking for opportunities to practice the above tips.  If you’re nervous, start small with your one-minute elevator pitch.  Make it a point to fill the entire minute exactly.  Work up to five-minute and ten-minute talks as you gain confidence.  When you feel ready, look for an opportunity to make a lunchtime educational presentation.  The program chairs of many associations and membership organizations are always on the lookout for speakers.  Position yourself as the expert; enjoy the satisfaction of educating other people.  When you remember to apply the tips in this strategy, we feel confident that it will alleviate much of your speaking anxiety.  One final thought: It’s good to be a little nervous.  Just convert that into positive energy, and you’ll have the audience in the palm of your hand.

I’m really interested in getting some feedback from all of you reading this blog, so please respond in the comment forum below to any or all of the following questions–and/or offer any thoughts related to overcoming the fear of public speaking. Thanks so much!

  • On a scale of 1 — 10,  1 being “not really afraid” and 10 being “more afraid than death,” how afraid would you say you are of public speaking?
  • What mental and physical manifestations of fear and anxiety do you experience when faced with having to speak in public?
  • What tools/strategies/tactics have you personally found to be helpful and effective in managing your fear of public speaking.  Alternately, what tools/strategies/tactics have you found to be useless or ineffective?

Are You Prepared?–A Networking Checklist

Have you ever attended a networking event where it was clear that some of the other networkers you interacted with were obviously not at all prepared?  Worse yet, have you found yourself unprepared in networking situations and been unsure about what you should be doing to set yourself up to make solid networking connections?  As networkers, preparation is extremely important  because, the fact is, if you haven’t done the simple, basic preparations to network properly then you’re not only wasting your time, you’re wasting the time of the other networkers you talk to.

 

Preparing to network is not difficult; you simply need to follow these basic networking commandments:

* Have the proper networking tools with you (name badge, business cards, contact info of your referral partners).

* Set a reachable goal for the number of people you’ll meet, and then get all their cards.

* Act like a host, not a guest.

* Listen and ask questions.

* Don’t try to close a deal.

* Give referrals whenever possible.

* Spend roughly 10 minutes or so with each person you meet.

* Exchange cards and write notes on the backs of cards you get so that you are sure to remember people clearly.

* Follow up!

No matter how long you’ve been networking, it’s always good to remind yourself to consistently follow these steps. If you do, you’re sure to get the best possible results from your networking efforts. And other networkers, like myself, will thank you for making good use of their time.

Do you have a tactic for preparing to network which isn’t listed above and has been particularly effective for you?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear you ideas–thanks!

 

Education Plus Preparation Equals Optimum Results

During a conversation some years ago with Leslie Fiorenzo, a colleague of mine in the networking organization I founded, she made an interesting point of comparison between appreciating opera and learning to use word-of-mouth marketing in your business.  She said, “The best way to experience opera is to see it on the stage, and the best way to use word of mouth is to put a referral marketing plan in place. The novice, in either case, may not know where to begin.”

 

We started talking about a system to generate business by referral and, just like opera, if you have little or no experience with referral marketing, it would be a mistake to jump into action without preparing yourself–preparation is key to success. Central to the referral-marketing process is getting people to send you referrals. To do so, they must know exactly what you do–what product or service you provide or make; how, and under what conditions, you provide it; how well you do it; and in what ways you are better at what you do than your competitors. You absolutely must communicate this information to your sources. And to communicate effectively, you must know the same things. Before business owners map out their referral marketing campaign, they must stop and get a clear picture of where their business currently stands.

Leslie commented that when people begin to learn and study opera, they begin with basic works by composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini before moving on to more complex works by composers such as Richard Wagner. In the same way, when marketing your business by word of mouth, there is a place to start before you meet with the people in your network. You begin by preparing answers to some basic questions about yourself and your business like:

1. Why are you in business?
2. What do you sell?
3. Who are your customers and
4. How well do you compete?

The ability to communicate this information to your sources and prospects will be invaluable as you begin to build your network and formulate your plan to gain more and more business the most effective way–through referrals.

Once you master some basic tools, you can move on to a deeper understanding of the process. For example, there are three laws of Notable Networking:

1. Have a positive and supportive attitude, and provide a positive and supportive environment for other business people.
2) Learn how to use networking tools efficiently, including business cards and an informative name badge, and have a business-card case to hold others’ cards.
3) Networking is an acquired skill that requires listening to CDs, reading books/articles, picking the brains of great networkers and practicing what you’ve learned.

One fantastic place to get information about all things related to networking is NetworkingNow.com.  I highly recommend that you become familiar with the basic tools of word-of-mouth marketing and begin to implement them in your business so that you can begin to watch it grow. Because, just like appreciating opera, if you don’t begin with the basics, you won’t experience the optimum result.

If there is an educational resource which you’ve found to be specifically valuable and effective in learning to network, I urge you to share it in the comment forum below so others might utilize it and benefit from it as well.  After you leave a comment, be sure to send a quick e-mail to larry@bni.com with the subject line “Blog Comment” so he can reply to you with a coupon code for a free six-month subscription to NetworkingNow.com.

 

Preparation & Follow Up–the Two Keys to Referral Success

In this brief video, filmed at the 2012 BNI® International Directors’ Conference in early November, I talk with Terry Hamill, a respected business networking expert based in Europe.  Terry explains two important keys for maximum effectiveness and success in business referral generation–preparation and follow up.

Terry advises that the true gold is in the follow up and that the most successful networkers use the strongest follow-up methods; he also offers a few important tips for preparation prior to attending networking meetings and events.

Do you have a favorite follow-up method or a highly effective preparation tactic that you use prior to attending networking functions?  If so, we’d love to hear about it!  What works well for you could really help other people in their journey to networking success so, by all means, please feel free to share your favored methods and tactics in the comment forum below. Thanks!

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