You are taking a shower in a motel room off the highway, when suddenly a crazed lunatic wearing an old woman’s wig throws open the curtain wielding a carving knife. Ree ree ree ree. For most of you, experiencing this classic movie scene first hand would be preferable to public speaking. Ok, that might be a little hyperbolic, but many studies have shown that public speaking is ranked within the top three fears that people have, along with death and financial instability. And it is understandable. Public speaking requires vulnerability in front of a large group of people who might not like you. That can be a scary thought.
Personally, I used to be TERRIFIED to speak in front of any group; large, small, strangers, acquaintances, friends. My knees would start shaking, my mouth would go dry, I could hear a whooshing sound like the ocean in my ears, and then I couldn't remember what I was supposed to be talking about in the first place. But, the more I did it, the less scary it became. Like any other fear, we must learn to embrace it in order to move forward in this life and be successful. If you want to sell your books and your message to people, you are going to have to get in front of a group and show them how you can help solve their problem.
One of the first steps in learning to embrace public speaking is to have a good presentation. If your message is strong, and you know it backwards and forwards, you will find that it is easier to deliver. If you don't have to think about what you are going to say next, you will be able to relax during your presentation. One way to build a presentation that is captivating and easy to remember is to focus on one main point. If there are too many “messages” within your presentation your audience will get lost, and you may find it harder to remember your point. You want to guide your listeners to the solution to their problem. Just make sure that the problem is specific and the solution is clear. If these things are true, then your audience will stay with you through your presentation.
Rob Eagar has some tips on how to build a speech in his book [amazon text=How to Sell Your Book Like Wildfire&asin=159963421X].
So, now you have a presentation. You have great slides and examples. You have memorized your speech, practiced it in front of the mirror, and the dog, and your spouse, and you are still totally terrified. That’s ok. Trust me. Conquering your fear of public speaking does not mean that every time you have to speak in public you are psyched and fearless. It just means that you don't let your fear control the outcome of your presentation. Michael Hyatt wrote a blog on what an acting coach taught him about public speaking. The five lessons were:
- Be Nervous. You want to experience real thoughts and feelings with your audience and suppressing your nerves won't allow for this.
- Make Eye Contact. You want to make a connection to your audience. You want to communicate that you care about each and every one of them.
- Take Detours. This makes your presentation feel more like a conversation than a lesson.
- Pause. You want to allow the weight of your message to sink in.
- Don't Be Afraid to Mess Up. To err is human, and your audience will understand this. In fact they will welcome it. Showing your “human” side will make you feel more accessible to audiences.
In the end you must remember that speaking in front of a group of people won't kill you. The audience won't throw rotten fruit at you or run you out of town on a rail. These are more commonly known as irrational fears. They are normal to have, but you must dispel them in order to do what you sought in the first place. There is a problem, or a group of problems, in the world that you can help people solve with your expert knowledge. So, go out there and show them how you can help.
What tricks have you learned that make public speaking easier? Share with us in the comments section below.
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