I read a study once that said people fear public speaking more than death. Wow! Since the best way to get rid of a fear is to face it head on, let’s tackle how you can overcome your fear of public speaking and boost your confidence in the process.
Speaking to lots of audiences—either in person or in front of a camera—is something I am accustomed to doing regularly. I am a fitness trainer, and every Monday morning I’m on Kare 11 news, a Minneapolis affiliate of NBC for a segment called Motivation Monday. In fact, I travel across the country speaking to different groups and companies about health, fitness, stress management and being an entrepreneur. Lots of people (who may want to become fitness trainers themselves) ask me for public speaking tips or they want to know how I relax on national TV, so I decided to devote a blog to it! Here are some of my tips …
First I must confess that I majored in Journalism, so I was able to learn effective strategies and practice public speaking in college. Practice is essential. You can practice in front of small groups or your family and work your way up to bigger groups. You can even use a mirror to practice in front of or videotape your first performance so you can objectively watch it and see where you can improve. I rewatch almost all of my news clips to see my delivery, hear myself speak and see my body language. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I cringe, but critique is the key to betterment. Some people who you may believe have natural talent have just practiced a lot or have lots of experience!
Some people think that to give an effective speech they have to commit it completely to memory and show up without notes or a teleprompter. That is not the case. Sure, you want to avoid reading a speech or script, but you can definitely bring notes. Jot down talking points that will jog your mind if you get stuck or use an outline. Sometimes I write down key phrases, just in case, and to ensure I hit all the points I want to hit. Talk to your audience as you would a friend across your kitchen table, and you will connect with them and they will connect with you.
When I speak to groups, I offer a 101 Healthy Tip list. Not only is this providing audience members with something of value, but it also has all of my contact information so I can connect with more people on Facebook, Twitter and through my Website, GetHealthyU.com long after my talk has ended. If you have handouts, don’t provide those to your audience until after you speak, otherwise you will be speaking to an audience with their heads down reading.
Know Your Audience
Whether you are a writer or public speaker or both, knowing your audience is critical to connecting with your audience. To give an effective speech or presentation, you should be familiar with the demographics of your audience—age, education level, professions and interests if possible. The more you know your audience the better. You will be able to tailor your presentation to the audience you are speaking to and avoid any sensitivities that might exist in your particular demographic.
Know Your Material
I am sure you have heard all of the suggestions about picturing your audience naked to calm your nerves, but the best route to calm your nerves is to know what you are going to be talking about backwards, forwards and upside down. That will calm you more than any trick will. Share compelling or funny stories with your audience in a conversational way because people tend to remember stories more than they remember a list of facts or points. If you tell a story, always make sure you go back to your initial point.
Let Your Personality Shine
Don’t try to be anyone else but YOU when you are speaking in front of an audience. Relax, breathe and let your personality shine through. You won’t come across as forced or stiff, if you can just be naturally who you are.
Even if you don’t plan on being behind a podium, center stage or behind a camera someday, improving your public speaking can be beneficial in lots of ways. You will never fear being called on to speak in different settings, you will do better in business because you are practicing being articulate and you just might increase your confidence—and be happier. Oh, and one last tip (not a surprise coming from me) … fuel well and be hydrated before your big talk. You don’t want to be light headed from nerves or faint. You want your head to be clear and your energy to go to your audience.