If your employees took a workplace survey, and you asked them what they’re most fearful of, the overwhelming majority of the answers would be a fear of death. Behind that — and trust me, this is a very close second place — is fear of public speaking.
It’s wild to think that getting up in front of a room to deliver a speech or presentation ranks right up there with dying. But it’s consistent across the board with most of today’s population. Never mind the fact that your employees have a fear of public speaking — everyone else does, too. You may even agree with them!
Just the mere thought makes your legs turn to Jello.
The next thing you know, you’re stammering over your words. You could read the cue cards but don’t realize they’re in your hands.
Then comes the cold sweats and the inescapable feeling that you just made a fool of yourself.
These things often sound and feel worse than what they are in real life. As far as the audience is concerned, you likely did just fine. But how can we overcome this fear of public speaking to feel equally as good about the outcome? What practical steps can you take on your own, and what tools can you combine with that to improve your comfort level, get through the speech with flying colors, and look professional — all at the same time?
When it comes to public speaking, practice makes perfect!
If you want to be effective at public speaking, you must practice. And by practice, I mean practice every chance you can get leading up to your event, class presentation, TV spot, etc. — in front of the mirror, in the shower, in the car, etc. And as you practice more, you become comfortable in your own skin. You develop confidence — even if you still don’t like public speaking. It’s the people who have never practiced before who’d rather die before giving a speech. They haven’t practiced. They’re not prepared.
As a result, these and many more horrible feelings begin to set in:
- Fear of failure and judgment
- Thoughts of past failures
- The desire for unattainable perfection
- They compare themselves to previous speakers
- Fear of forgetting their lines
Different people fear public speaking for very different reasons. More often than not, they’ve never been taught how to or been given the tools, tips, and tricks that can help them be more effective at presenting in front of a group of people.
I’m not expecting you to love public speaking by the time you finish reading this article, but here are a few tips to get you there faster:
- Learn how to speak through your diaphragm — Doing so instantly gives you more air and control over your voice. It also helps calm your nerves and help you resonate or project your voice so everyone within earshot can hear you longer, louder, and clearer.
- Practice where you can see yourself — Watch yourself in a mirror and pay attention to how you look. What can you change about your posture? What do you do with your hands as you speak?
- Record yourself — I don’t know many people who enjoy the sound of their voices. But recording yourself and learning how you speak through active listening is important. If you don’t like how you sound (New York accent, not enough baritone in your voice, etc.), this is a great way to positively change your perception of your voice.
- Memorize your speech — If your fear of public speaking is that you’re afraid you’ll forget your lines, it is perfectly fine to have notes. That said, reading every word on your cue cards or notebook paper is not OK. This is a disservice to those in the audience, and it doesn’t help you look better. As you practice more and more, memorization should become easier.
- Speak with confidence — Even if you’re nervous, don’t project that outwardly. People love gravitas and confidence. And if you’re doing it correctly, people will appreciate your message even if you do mess up.
The Business World Demands More Effective Communication
Beyond practicing on your own, you need coaching and the right technology at your fingertips to take your public speaking game to another level. And this is where TalkMeUp’s Persuasive Communication Model is so valuable. TalkMeUp is an innovative, one-of-a-kind software that profoundly addresses related shortcomings by leveraging real-time AI for instant measurement, analysis, reporting, tracking, scaling, and more. In terms of public speaking, TalkMeUp provides professional advice from invisible coaches while you’re in front of an audience that isn’t there! You get to watch yourself as the audience would have seen you — but with no consequences.
Imagine having the opportunity to correct mistakes before you make them in public. And you can repeat the process for as long as it takes and as many times as it takes.
Confidence is the difference. And when it comes to public speaking, it makes all the difference.
About the Author
Gil Maurer is former President of Hearst Corporation’s magazine division and retired as COO of Hearst’s parent company. He’s an investor and underwrites TalkMeUp’s work at Wellesley College and St. Lawrence University, and he has a fervent desire to elevate the communication skills of students and, really, every professional. Despite being in his 90s, Gil is still very active on the Hearst Board, the Hearst Foundation board, and with public speaking.