Identify and Overcome Your Public Speaking Fears.

Public speaking is the number one skill that is guaranteed to make you stand out from the crowd and position you head and shoulders above the competition, yet it is frequently overlooked, according to female speaker, Patricia Fripp.

Gerald R. Ford said "If I went back to college again, I would concentrate on two areas: learning to write and learning to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively."

My own take on having the ability to give presentations is that it is probably the single most powerful thing you can learn to do that gives you the ammunition to say "If I can do that, I can do anything".

If you have ever marvelled at the abilities of a great presenter, the clever use of words to draw pictures, the confidence and charisma that exudes from the platform and the awe in which they are held, you will agree with the above statements.

So why is it that when it comes to attending training courses, presentation skills are not the automatic first port of call? Could it be to do with that often quoted (probably misquoted) statistic that speaking in public is feared more than death? Let us not go into an examination of quite how ridiculous that would be if it were true. After all, how many of you would really swap places with the guy in the coffin if you were asked to speak at a funeral?

There is no doubt that public presenting can get the old palms sweating, but given the benefits you will get when you know you can do it well, it really should not stop you. Let us examine the causes of your nerves, lay your fears to rest and get this most important of abilities added to your arsenal of talents.

First, examine why you are nervous. There is always a reason for nerves so examine what the reasons are so you can deal with the cause, understanding this will go a long way towards eliminating the symptom. Note that I say "go a long way towards eliminating", the chances are that you will always feel some nervousness which is when you need to remember that nerves are your friends because they keep your senses sharp and show that you want to do well.

Even seasoned performers can suffer from stage fright, some had it so bad they could barely perform. Fortunately, the thought is usually worse than the task. Once you get started, you will often find that your nervousness will disappear. I liken it to knowing that you are about to tackle a drive round London's Hyde Park Corner or Paris's Arc de Triomphe in rush hour. Thinking about it really freaks you out but when you are in the middle of it, you are too busy concentrating on not hitting anyone that it is only afterwards you get to think "Wow, I made it in one piece."

Some of the most common reasons I have found for people suffering from nerves are these:

  • Fear of forgetting what you are about to say.
  • Fear that the audience will think you are a fraud.
  • Fear of saying the wrong thing and offending someone.
  • Fear that someone will ask a question to which you do not know the answer.
  • Fear that you will get a dry mouth or get tongue tied.
  • Fear that you will finish too soon or run on for too long.

Some of the less common ones I have heard were "I am worried in case there is a fire alarm halfway through my talk" and "I am worried that the hem on my trousers will unravel in front of everyone whilst I am speaking."

I could dismiss all these as "silly" or "invalid" and tell you that none of them will ever happen, but the fact is that they often will. (Yes, even the trouser hem thing has happened to me!). Looking down the list, you can see that there is a lot you can do to avoid these situations occurring: being well prepared, stating your qualifications in your introduction, knowing your subject matter inside and out, timing yourself several times during rehearsals, and so on (sorry, I do not have a magic bean to disable fire bells during speeches).

But so what if any of them still come to pass? What is the worst that can happen? Well it is not life or death, you know. You have to learn to keep your fears in perspective. And remember, the audience wants you to succeed. Nobody enjoys a bad speech.

Do what you can to be prepared and do not let fear of speaking stop you from gaining that most revered of all skills, the one that will impact every area of your personal and business life. Give yourself the very best opportunity of succeeding and you will find the rewards are massive.

 

Maria Davies is the UK's most successful female sales presenter training people to overcome their public speaking fears and use presentation skills to increase the audience share for their product or service by around 91%. Find out more about forthcoming seminars, worldwide e-trainings or speaker bookings at www.laddersofsuccess.com.