I nearly peed my pants. That’s how nervous I’d get when it came to speaking to a room full of strangers.
Can you relate?
You know your topic inside out, then it’s your turn to speak and you just want the ground to swallow you up.
“I had been terrified of public speaking. I couldn’t do it,” billionaire Warren Buffett admitted in a documentary.
But he knew that if he wanted to be successful as a business owner he had to get good at public speaking.
There is only one way to overcome any kind of fear: practice and practice some more.
I forced myself to do more speaking engagements until I became comfortable.
The fear of public speaking never fully goes away.
That’s not a bad thing either. Nervous energy, when used well can transform a good speech into a great one.
Five Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
1. Focus on the Message, Not Yourself
“What will they think of me?” Is a common concern many of my clients concern themselves. That’s your ego speaking. When you take the focus away from yourself and instead focus on the message you’ll focus your mind. When you reframe the way you think about your speaking engagement and just have fun, you’ll enjoy the experience that much more.
2. Structure Your Speech
Have a loose plan of what you want to cover. Start with a strong opening, perhaps by sharing an interesting statistic, asking a question or if you’re brave – tell a joke. This will boost the energy in the room. The standard essay format e.g. introducing the topic, talking about the topic and then summarizing the key points – is a good structure to follow. Signposting the speech will also help gather your thoughts.
3. Draw on Personal Experiences
Use stories or personal experiences in your speech to let your personality show and to help form an emotional connection Everyone has their own unique experiences – use them to your advantage. Steve Jobs’ Commencement address is probably one of my favorite talks ever. Why? Because he tells so many personal stories and brings you into his world. From a personal standpoint, as a Londoner living in New York, people often ask me to share my experiences of the cultural differences between the two cities.
4. Practice, Practice and Practice Some More
The more you practice your speech; the more comfortable you’ll feel on the day. Once you’re happy with your outline, practice saying it aloud to yourself in front of a mirror or record yourself on your phone and play it back. Assess your pace; vocal variety and how many filler words you use. Try to keep the filler words to a minimum by inserting natural pauses between sentences.
5. Watch Stand Up Comedy
No joke. Look at how the likes of Louis CK or Dave Chappelle use humor, vocal variety and stage presence to their advantage. Comedy will also help ease any last minute nerves. You can learn so much from them!
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