If you are terrified of speaking publicly, you are not alone.
“Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is a widespread phobia and one that is believed to affect up to 75% of the population.” –Psycom (3rd largest site in the US- focuses exclusively on mental health.)
Most people would rather jump through rings of fire than give a speech.
Does the thought of speaking in public instantly induce sweaty palms? Have you ever been afraid to express your opinion? Have you ever believed that you’re not good a good enough public speaker? Or do you think your ideas and opinions had merit, but you were unable to articulate your perspective? This is the article for you!
People who can speak in public are revered. “We’ve all seen and admired those people who seem like they were born on a stage. They speak in full paragraphs without notes and look as relaxed as if they were heading out for a Sunday stroll. That could be you someday….the key is to work up to it.” –New York Times.
If you want to appear calm and collected as a public speaker, you have to be dedicated to organizing your thoughts and expertise. Steps 1-9 will help you develop a strategic outline for almost any situation.
1. ANALYZE YOUR AUDIENCE.
Work diligently to uncover the beliefs and convictions of your audience. This is valid whether you are giving a speech, making a phone call, or writing a letter. Understand their needs, job positions, demographics, and personalities. Only then can you structure the appropriate message to get your desired response. Research your audience, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and get to know the demographic you are trying to relate to. You have missed your mark if you are giving a speech to a room of vegans, and the topic of your stories and examples are about hunting and eating meat. If you know your audience and their needs, they will be engaged. When an audience is involved, you will find your confidence and the better public speaker you will become.
2. FIND SIMILARITIES TO CREATE COMMON GROUND.
Common ground creates a level of trust vital to everything from public speaking to simple everyday occurrences. You can build rapport with others by uncovering what you share in common. Sharing similar beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, clothes, hobbies, careers, and the like are the keys to a great presentation. Ask yourself this question: “What do I have in common with this person or audience?”
3. CREATE AND SHARE YOUR CREDIBILITY.
Listeners will be most influenced by a person whom they perceive is knowledgeable and qualified. You are more likely to take financial advice from a millionaire than from a street-corner bum. Make your credentials known with academic degrees, awards, or successful experiences. You can do this in your introduction as well as throughout your presentation. You can also show the disadvantages of your point of view to demonstrate your ability to “see it as it is.” Another way to create credibility is to demonstrate your confidence, enthusiasm, and sincerity when speaking.
4. DRAW ON YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES.
When you speak from experience, you are not reciting words; you instead are recalling a memory. People like to hear experiences and stories from other people’s lives. Start a journal. Jot down experiences you’d had that emphasize lessons you can use in your presentations. Make sure that the experiences you share relate to your content. Some of the best public speakers are the ones that have the most relatable lives.
5. ORGANIZE YOUR MAIN POINTS.
This is the core content of your message. Avoid making your audience decipher your key points or ideas. Every excellent written or verbal presentation is well organized. This makes it easy for your message to be understandable and increases your listener’s faith in your expertise. Please take a few minutes to jot down your main or core ideas before offering them to others. Shorter presentations should contain fewer main points. Avoid overpacking too many main points. Keep these concise.
6. PREVIEW YOUR SUBJECT’S MAIN POINTS.
What is it that you are going to address in your presentation? This is where you briefly tell your audience what you will say to them. It’s a quick preview of your main points. The preview is a way to help your audience more easily follow what you are going to say. A preview is not always necessary, especially when your presentation is shorter than 2 minutes.
7. USE THE POWER OF THE STORY.
The story has been used to convey teachings since the dawn of man. The Bible is full of stories. The stories of Aesop still flourish today. George Lucas incited generations through the story of Luke Skywalker. Stories move people and create memories. Shorter stories work better than longer ones when used in a presentation. Audience members lose interest when a story is too long and drawn out.
“Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I am just wearing better shoes.” -Oprah Winfrey.
8. USE STATISTICS AND FACTS.
According to Gallup News Service, the #1 American Fear is Snakes, and the second position is Public Speaking. In third place is heights. Interject logic into your presentation. Back your main points with empirical data, visual aids, research studies, polls, surveys, facts, and the like. People tend to embrace what is said when it appeals to emotion and logic. Craft statistics that meet their needs and answer their questions.
9. ELIMINATE FILLER WORDS.
Filler words are the words we utter that add nothing. They do add something. They add the perception that you are unsure, lack confidence, and cannot be articulate, among other things. Some filler words are um, so, ah, a, okay, and you know. This type of communication conveys that you are unsure of yourself. Powerful language is relatively brief and straightforward, whereas less powerful speech contains terms that suggest uncertainty or lack of self-confidence.
Steps 10-13 are intended to help you gain some personal commitment to your presentation. You must believe what you say and convey your emotional sentiment throughout a speech or presentation. This is what grasps an audience and evokes a recollection long after your audience leaves your presence.
10. USE EMOTIONAL APPEALS WHEN PERSUADING.
Advertisements use emotional appeals to persuade their audiences. They involve the audience by associating a positive feeling toward buying and using their product or service. The key is to appeal to emotions. Practical examples that promote an emotional appeal could be: “Imagine how that would make you feel if…” and “If that happened to you….” Here are some top emotions to consider: love, fear, joy, courage, desire, guilt, happiness, surprise, anticipation, social anxiety, anger, panic, sadness, hope, sympathy, and enthusiasm.
11. BE REAL.
Have you ever noticed that great public speakers change their voice when addressing a group? Or the speaker gets stiff or seems contrived. If you want to connect with people, be yourself verbally and physically when commanding an audience. The point is not to try to be someone else. Don’t be fake; stay true to your integrity. Be your best self, not someone else. Be aware of your physical confidence and nonverbal communication. Your body language speaks volumes. Check for the small things, such as not maintaining eye contact, awkward speaking habits, poor posture, and facial expressions. This will reinforce your authenticity. Establishing good habits with your visual presentation skills is as important as what you have to say. Ask yourself: If I saw myself visually during my speech, would I want to watch my Tedtalk?
12. IMPROVE YOUR VOICE INFLECTION.
Inflection is the peaks and valleys in your voice that let whomever you are talking to know that you are interested or uninterested in what is being said. We all know that people pay more attention to how we say it, instead of what we say. Perform an audit of your communication skills. Are you monotone? Boring? Excited? Tonality helps to communicate your convictions or lack. If you feel that your voice inflection needs improvement, here are a few things you can do: Smile when talking, practice stressing words, and slightly exaggerate your tone. Remember that too much inflection is just as bad as too little. 38% of a message is communicated through tonality.
13. GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT.
Anxiety and nervousness are commonly associated with public speaking. The first thing you need to do to be successful is to get your head straight. Here are a few ways to do it:
Don’t forget to breathe. Take a couple of deep breaths a few minutes before giving your presentation. This will send a message to your autonomic nervous system that helps relax and calm you.
Another great practice to get your head straight is to use an affirmation or mantra, such as “I am going to do a great job.” Or “I am calm and relaxed when speaking.” Or “I am an excellent speaker.” These statements and others have a powerful effect on the mind.
Avoid a negative mindset. Negative manifestations happen when you place your focus on your worst fears. If you are thinking, “I am terrified and nervous.” Or, “I am going to goof this up and look really stupid.” You are likely going to project that to the audience.
Comparatively, you have positive manifestations. Think of a successful moment in your life. Focus your mindset on a time when you have enjoyed yourself. This helps to focus on life’s positive aspects, leaving no space in your head for pessimistic thoughts.
Steps 14-17 will be the moment you go live. At this point, your outline is set, your emotional and mental game is on point, and you are ready to share your expertise.
14. INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND YOUR SUBJECT.
What is the subject you are addressing? What is the topic you are sharing with your audience? State your subject explicitly. In some cases, you will be formally introduced. This is a beautiful opener and segues into your presentation. Examples are: “I’d like to talk with you about the importance of recycling.” Or, “I’m going to share the differences between a Mac & and a PC.” Even if you are formally introduced, you can still share with your audience more about who you are and why you are qualified to speak on the subject.
15. USE AN ATTENTION GETTER.
Light a fire under your audience. Gain attention by telling a quick joke, asking a question, offering a famous quotation, sharing a story, or citing a statistic. Use this technique whether you are speaking to an audience for three hours or thirty seconds. An attention getter allows you to focus the mind of your audience. Ultimately, it draws your audience in to listen to what you have to say.
16. STATE YOUR PURPOSE.
Why are you speaking? What is your intent? State your purpose to your audience. Tell the audience why you are talking to them. Let’s say your subject is The Importance of Recycling. Your purpose may be stated: “I’d like to share with you why and how you can recycle so we can save the planet.” This will lay the groundwork for what they will learn from your presentation.
17. SUMMARIZE YOUR PRESENTATION.
Avoid giving your entire presentation again in your summary. This is simply a quick review of what has been said. Reiterate your main points and refresh everyone’s memory. You don’t want to lose your audience’s attention.
18. CLOSE WITH A CALL TO ACTION.
The purpose of a presentation is to get your audience to take action. What action do you want your audience to take? You might want your audience to accept your point of view. You might want them to recycle, vote in your favor, or volunteer in the community. Whatever it is, ask your audience to take some action. After completing your presentation, never open the display again. We encourage opening a quick Q & A session.
Take notice of what Mozart shared, “To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.”
19. ASK FOR FEEDBACK.
An over-inflated ego can hinder you from identifying your dysfunctional behavior. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family, and business associates if there is room for improvement. You can ask your audience to give their suggestions on how you might improve your communication. Encourage everyone to share their honest insights with you. Let them know that you value their perspectives and opinions. This can also be achieved by having your audience fill out an evaluation form. Be sure to follow their suggestions. You can also video or audio record your presentation and review it to see how you can improve. Major sports teams video record the game so they can review and improve.
Now that you are starting to understand the process and have your outline, presence, and experience. You are ready to hone your craft and gain the confidence you need to master leadership. These last few tips will put you in the driver’s seat as a public speaker.
20. JOIN A PUBLIC SPEAKING GROUP.
Toastmasters Club International is among the most prominent public speaking organizations. It offers a safe place to learn how to enhance your speaking skills. Most cities have several different chapters. The cost is nominal and includes all workbook materials. Find a group near you by visiting toastmasters.org. You can join private training companies’ public speaking classes and coaching forums. Or take speech classes at your local community college or university. The habit is to take and get involved in multiple environments that will allow you to hone your skills and become a good public speaker.
21. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
There is never a “bad” time to practice. Some of our favorite options are: driving in the car, standing in front of a mirror, and walking down the street. In today’s world, no one would bat an eye at someone walking down the street talking. If you are insecure about that, toss in an earbud. A great casual resource for public speaking tips and critiques is a small group of friends, family members, or coworkers. This will allow you to practice with them and gain familiarity with your content. You can practice casually with one person. Our perspective is that there is little difference between this and public speaking. You just have to add a few more people. Proper practice is the only way to improve; of course, just giving the presentation is a form of practice. The more times you do it, the easier it gets.
It is time to step up from knowing to doing. These habits are simple, yet they are not always easy to apply consistently. Practice these habits for success and watch your public speaking skills improve to a new level of professional development.
If you’d like to improve your public speaking skills, now is your best hour. So let’s get started:
Jeffrey Benjamin is a leading public speaker and the founder of breakthroughtraining.com. Breakthrough Training™ provides solutions. Whether you need to become a better communicator or public speaker, They’ve got you covered.
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