As I’ve stated in previous columns, speaking opportunities are business, career and leadership opportunities. No one ever challenges that statement. Why would they?
Unfortunately, the fear of public speaking holds many back from taking and making those speaking opportunities. My coaching clients often mention this. The last two columns explored two elements contributing to this fear: Why and The What Ifs?
This feature is the first of several articles looking at ‘nuggets’ to lessen that fear, things I have discovered through research and working with individuals and students I teach. We don’t want to completely rid ourselves of the fear of public speaking. Take that nervous energy and funnel it into your delivery! A presentation without energy is b-o-r-i-n-g! (Have you ever sat through a boring presentation? Don’t give one!)
Nugget No. 1
Never—I mean, never—tell your audience you fear public speaking. I have seen great presentations almost ruined when the speaker starts their talk by saying, “I hate this. I’m nervous. I can’t stand public speaking.” Don’t do that!
• It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy! Talking like that could make the worst come true. No negative self-talk!
• The audience will look for an indication of you being nervous. They’ll be watching for knees knocking, forehead sweating and will scrutinize your message for mistakes—and those searching eyes could raise your anxiety.
• It makes the audience feel uneasy. The point of making a presentation is having your audience get it. They’ll be distracted from your message because you told them you’re uneasy delivering your talk.
Nugget No. 2
Arrive early and meet and greet. I try to be the first to arrive at a venue where I’ll be a speaker. I want to greet each person as they arrive.
Work the room, shake their hands and thank them for coming to the event. It is amazing how much easier it is to speak before people you’ve just met and greeted. This nugget is huge!
Nugget No. 3
Name Tags—insist on them! Large print is best. First names only are fine. The important thing is that they can easily be read without having to be inches from the tag.
Find out, in advance, if the audience will have name tags provided. If not, bring your own and a couple fine-point Sharpies. (I always have a supply with me.)
Name tags reach out and pull individuals in. They close the gap between people and make the meet and greet a whole lot easier! Members of the audience also will appreciate them for their own introductions to other attendees. (Most people have a tough time remembering names.)
Nugget No. 4
Write your own introduction. The introduction is an integral part of the presentation, and should be written by the speaker and presented by the emcee as if he or she wrote it.
No one cares who you married, how many kids you have, and that collecting stamps is your hobby. Your introduction should be the equivalent of the king’s trumpeters announcing His Highness is about to arrive. The audience should be pumped and primed for you to speak!
Your introduction should answer three questions: Why this subject? Why this speaker? Why now?
When composing your introduction, don’t be modest! It’s an opportunity to have a third party—the emcee—tell the audience great things about the upcoming presenter--you!
Nugget No. 5
Know your subject. There is a ‘confidence in your competence’ that comes from knowing your topic well. This is a huge anxiety reducer.
That knowledge of your subject is continuing effort. Have a plan for keeping abreast of the latest information on your topic. Read and listen to views on the subject you may not share with the writer or speaker. Getting out of your comfort zone expands it and increases your expertise.
In the next column, we’ll look at more ‘nuggets.’ Till then, make your next presentation NO SWEAT!
Editor's Note: Speaker, author and presentation coach Fred Miller’s first book is NO SWEAT Public Speaking! Businesses and individuals hire him to improve their public speaking and presentation skills. NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com.