how to overcome the fear of public speaking

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speakingstring(43) "How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking"

Did you know that people have ranked the fear of public speaking as worse than the fear of dying? Talking to an audience can be frightening, especially if it is for more than a minute or two. The mere thought of standing before an audience, trying to convey a message or pitch an idea, can send shivers down one’s spine.

Well, the fact is that no matter how much you try to avoid it, networking for your business is going to involve public speaking. You may find yourself giving a 30- or 60-second weekly presentation at a networking meeting, a ten-minute presentation at a Chamber of Commerce function, or a comprehensive thirty-minute educational presentation to a prospective customer. At some point you will likely be in front of an audience. My recommendation? Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do it.

Use These Strategies

These five strategies are my top tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and gain confidence to start winning over your audiences.

1) Preparation is Key 

One of the most effective ways to alleviate the fear of public speaking is thorough preparation. Avoid the urge to “wing it.” Instead, create a clear outline of what you intend to say and rehearse it. Utilize note cards or have your speech typed out with large, easily readable fonts to ensure you don’t lose your place. However, be cautious not to over-prepare, as this can lead to heightened anxiety. Strike a balance between being well-prepared and allowing yourself some flexibility to engage with your audience naturally.

2) Be Specific and Showcase Your Expertise

When delivering a presentation, especially in a networking context, avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information. Focus on one or two key aspects of your business that you are most knowledgeable about and passionate about. By concentrating on what you know best, you will enhance your comfort level and reduce stress. Remember, the audience perceives you as the expert, and they are eager to learn from you. Trust in your expertise and present your subject matter with confidence.

3) Use Supporting Materials Wisely

Visual aids such as handouts, PowerPoint slides, and props can be valuable tools to support your presentation. These resources can help you stay on track, and they also offer an additional layer of engagement for your audience. However, be cautious when using PowerPoint. It should enhance your presentation, not serve as a crutch. Avoid the temptation to read directly from the slides. Invest time in understanding how to effectively utilize this tool; there are numerous books and articles that provide guidance on the subject.

4) Embrace Your Role as an Expert

It is important to understand that as a speaker, you are the authority on your subject. Your audience is eager to gain knowledge from you; they want to hear what you have to say. Focus on what you excel at, and you will naturally exude confidence and credibility. Believing in yourself and your message is pivotal to your success as a public speaker.

5) Be Creative and Engage Your Audience 

Don’t feel constrained by traditional speaking approaches. Experiment with different ways of communicating that make you feel comfortable. Instead of simply talking at your audience, engage them in a conversation. You can even start with a Q&A session then answer at length. Don’t be afraid to be different and surprise the audience. Move around the stage, interact with the audience, or use unexpected elements to invigorate your presentation. Having fun with your message can help convert nervous energy into positive energy. When your enthusiasm shines through, the audience will feel it, and anxiety will dissipate.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Starting your journey to conquer the fear of public speaking begins with practice. You can’t get better at something if you never practice it, and the best time to start practicing is NOW. Begin with small opportunities, such as delivering a one-minute elevator pitch, and gradually increase your speaking time as your confidence grows. Look for opportunities to speak at events or educational presentations. Many associations and membership organizations are constantly seeking speakers, and positioning yourself as an expert can be highly satisfying and beneficial for your business.

While the fear of public speaking is prevalent, it is a skill that can be mastered with practice and the right approach. By following these strategies, you can increase your confidence and become a more effective and engaging public speaker. Remember, it’s natural to feel a little nervous. With the right mindset and techniques, you can transform that anxiety into a powerful and positive energy that captivates your audience. So, don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back; embrace the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with the world. Overcome the fear of public speaking and enjoy the satisfaction of educating other people about what you do.

I would appreciate your feedback. Please respond in the comment section to any, or all, of these questions.

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 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 you are faced with having to speak in public?
  • What tools, tactics, or strategies have you personally found to be helpful and effective to manage your fear of public speaking?

How to Communicate Effectively When Networkingstring(46) "How to Communicate Effectively When Networking"

Effective communication can be challenging. If it were easy, there would be no need for books, training programs, or research on the subject. There would also be far fewer divorces–and wars. And yet, communication is vital in business networking.  Your success in marketing your business and yourself rests mostly on your skills as a communicator. The clearer and more concise you make your message, the more easily it is passed on by your referral partners.

Three Common Ways That People Miscommunicate

  1.  They talk too much.
  2.  They use industry jargon.
  3.  They speak in generalities.

Any one of these mistakes can cause your message to be misheard, lost, or ignored. Even worse, these mistakes can create confusion or misinformation, and may possibly turn people against you, causing greater harm than if you had not tried to communicate at all. 

  1. The easiest way to avoid talking too much is to listen more. Of course you want to be polite and answer questions that people ask you. However, sometimes we get carried away and continue talking about ourselves long after we answered the original question. Be sure that you reciprocate and ask the same, or a similarly relevant, question to them.
    And then…. BE QUIET.
    When you ask someone a question, be respectful and give the courtesy of listening to what they have to say in reply.
    Remember, a master networker has two ears and one mouth, and they use them proportionally.
  2. You must eliminate industry jargon from your vocabulary in a networking situation unless you are speaking with someone in the same line of work as yours. It is best to simplify your message so the average person can relate to what you are saying.
    Here are some examples of possible responses when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”
    • Rather than saying, “I do IT consulting and system hard drive analysis,” you can say, “I troubleshoot and tune up computers to keep them free of problems.” Most people easily relate to computers that are problem-free, while terms such as  “IT consulting” and “hard drive analysis” can be confusing.
    • Instead of saying, “I’m a marketing consultant,” consider saying, “I help businesses become known in the community.”

Did you notice how the industry jargon is eliminated and then replaced with a benefit statement in these examples? We went from industry-specific, feature-related terms and changed the responses to less-specific, benefit-related terms.

  1. In business networking, it is also important to make sure that you don’t speak in terms that are too general. General requests are hard for people to fulfill because they don’t bring a specific person or situation to their mind.

    If you were to ask a realtor what kind of prospect they want to meet and they say, “Anybody who wants to sell a home,” it is very unlikely that you will immediately think of someone who “wants to sell a home.” If you do know someone who is putting their house on the market, they are probably already working with a real estate agent. However, if the realtor says, “I would like to meet empty-nesters who are looking to downsize,” you immediately think of two or three couples whose last child has moved out. This answer from the realtor is more specific, which helps you think of homeowners who may be starting to consider moving to a smaller house.I know it may seem odd but the more specific you are, the wider the door opens in the listener’s mind. To network your business effectively, think of yourself as a profiler. The more accurately you profile and identify your preferred client, and the more specific your message about your target market, the better the referrals you will receive. Being specific is also very helpful when you ask someone to help you. If you would like a personal introduction to the CEO of the ABC Company, be specific when you ask one of your referral partners to introduce you. “Juan, could you arrange a one-hour lunch meeting for the two of us and Mary Sinclair, the CEO of ABC Company? She’s someone I would really like to meet, and because you know both of us so well, it would be great to have you there.” This request is specific and it gives Juan the details he needs to successfully complete the task and arrange the meeting.

Tips to Help Your Message

A great way to help you get comfortable communicating your simple and specific message is to practice delivering it. 
This is the most-asked question at networking events: “What do you do for a living?” 
This week, practice your response to this question, and time yourself, honing it until you can answer it clearly and concisely in one minute. It is important to keep in mind that the question is what do you do for a living, not how you do it

Another good way to craft an effective message is to identify ten jargon words that you have used in networking situations.
I suggest that you make a list with two columns–title the first column “Jargon Words or Phrases” and name the second column “Saying the Same Thing in Layperson’s Terms.”  Then figure out a way to replace the jargon word with one that is easily understood by the average person.

A third thing you can do to practice your message is to write out a referral request before presenting it to the people in your networking group. Make the request specific by using the name, company, and description (profile) of the person you would like to be referred to. Create a clear image of what your fellow members should look for and describe what you want them to do on your behalf. As an experiment, you can show your written request to someone close to you and ask them if it is clear, concise, and specific. Incorporate their feedback before sharing the request at your networking meeting.

 

You have to be specific when you talk about what you do, using easy-to-understand language. Effective communication is imperative to get referrals from your business networking efforts. Your networking partners must understand what you do in a way that helps them identify potential referrals for you and also helps them easily connect those people to you.