Speaking, Speaking, Speaking

There is no faster way to scare the living daylights out of someone then telling them that they have to give a speech. For extra points, you can tell them that they’ll be speaking to a large audience – which depending on the person could mean more than 50 or more than 1000 attendees. Why do people associate fear to speaking? What’s the big difference between a speech and a conversation?

A person’s personality and attitude weighs heavily into this equation. People who describe themselves as introverted tend to avoid public speaking more than self-described extroverts. On the flip side, someone who has something that they feel is important to share with as many people as possible will tend to be more open to giving a speech than someone who doesn’t believe their ideas have any merit. So how can this all help you when you’re either tasked with or given the opportunity to give a speech? Well here are three ways that you can change your attitude about speaking.

Speaking Tip 1: Change your attitude about speaking:

When it comes to delivering a successful speech, attitude is everything. It gives you the courage to get up and talk to an audience as well as the confidence to sell your audience on your ideas. Like anything that you feel like you have to do, look at your speech as something you get to do. Someone gave me a tip when I first started out as a professional that helped me a lot. He reminded me that it’s an honor to address an audience no matter whether you’re paid to do it, volunteering or asked to as part of your job. It was this piece of advice that made me realize that the opportunity to give a speech really is like winning an award – you wouldn’t be asked to if someone didn’t think you had something worthwhile to say. So looking a speech as more of an award/honor than a task is one powerful way to change your attitude about speaking.

Speaking Tip 2: Think of it as a conversation:

I like to tell the people that take my Fear of Public Speaking that a speech is simply a (one sided) conversation with an audience. Just like when you’re having a conversation with business associates over lunch, a speech to a group follows many of the same rules – just on a larger scale. The problem is that many people instantly panic when they hear the word “speech” (and these days, “presentation”). You’re describing basically the same thing as a conversation, but you’ve put pressure on yourself.

We do this in a lot of situations. A conversation that you might have with a person from a recruiting firm is similar to a conversation that you might have on a job interview, but you put more pressure on yourself for the latter because a job offer is on the line. A quick conversation with someone you find attractive is more challenging than a conversation with someone you think of as a friend because you’re worried about the impression you’re giving. And giving an overview of your project with a peer at work is much easier than giving the same overview to someone far above you on the food chain, simply because you’re worried about how they might perceive it.

In all of these cases, it’s interesting how saying the exact same words can be more difficult depending on who is listening. So if you can simply get past that one issue, you’ll not only have less fear when you give a talk, but your overall speech will be given in a more confident manner.

Speaking Tip 3: Prepare, prepare, prepare:

You can give a speech with all the confidence in the world, but if the content of your speech is garbage, your entire speech will flop. That’s why preparation is key. Know your audience and their expectations – research this if you need to because this isn’t an area where you want to make assumptions. Know your speech so you don’t miss any of the main points and don’t get lost. Lastly, know your speech material so you can answer questions – this is the part of speeches that most people (professional speakers included) fear most. So simply research your talk, learn it and then practice delivering it. It will help you exponentially.

Now, if you have a fear of public speaking, remember that the only way to truly overcome it is to get out there and speak. Start with a small group if you need to and build yourself up. I have a program on overcoming your fear of public speaking that will give you tips and motivate you to get out there and speak – but unless you get out and speak to groups, you won’t fully overcome your fears. So get out there and give it a try.

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