Fear of Public Speaking

Seventy percent of employed people who give presentations agree that presentation skills are critical to their success at work, according to Forbes magazine. My first reaction? The other 30% don’t know it yet.

The findings reflect just how important presentations skills are to one’s career, and also reveal the extreme measures people take to get out of giving a presentation. For example, 20% of respondents said they would do almost anything to avoid giving a presentation including pretending to be sick or asking a colleague to give the presentation , even if it means “losing respect” in the workplace.

The fear of presenting is very real among professionals today, so much so that that many people are desperate to avoid it. It’s a problem because the survey also reveals that telling a clear and persuasive story through presentations is a fundamental job requirement and a necessary component of career success. In the information age you are only as valuable as the ideas you have to share.

Poor presentation skills mean that leaders fail to inspire their teams, products fail to sell, entrepreneurs fail to attract funding, and careers fail to soar. That seems like a big price to pay for neglecting such a basic skill that anyone can improve upon.

There is hope for anyone who wants to improve at this critical career skill. Seventy-five percent of those who give presentations say they would like to be better at presenting and to ‘captivate the audience.’

Here are some tips to help you:

You have to talk to yourself the right way and believe you are the person for the job. When you are prepared in your material and in your mindset, you will win the internal battle easier. Walk into the room or onto the stage telling yourself, ‘everyone here wants to hear what I have to say’. Talk to yourself the right way. You cannot get on stage with self-defeating thoughts like ‘I’m boring, nobody wants to listen to me, I’m going to forget my words.’ That’s preparing yourself to fail.”

Some people are just raised negative. They don’t think they’re being negative, but they go through life almost expecting not to do well. They’ll show up for a job interview not expecting to get it. You have to turn it around. When you get up in front of people, believe that they want to hear you. Act like they like you.”

Use stories of practical, everyday people and examples that the audience can relate to. It can quickly get boring to have too much information without a lot of examples and stories. Have a list of stories and write down what people tell you. Choose the story that fits the message you want to convey.

Practice what and how you want to say it. Refining the stories, the pacing, the delivery will help you feel more comfortable when you are giving your speech for the first time in front of your audience.

Make notes and if need be write out your entire speech. Practice it and once you have mastered the content, use only bullet points. Average presenters think “I’ll just get up there and wing it”. They quickly learned that their message does not come out the way it should.

Be real. Be personable. Be yourself. Make it simple so people don’t walk away asking, ‘What’s the point?’ It’s very hard to inspire others if you’re not true to who you are. Don’t mimic someone else’s speaking and delivery style to the point that you feel like a fake. Everyone can improve on their delivery style, tempo and pace to look and sound more professional, but stay true to who you are.

Too many people keep their ideas locked up because they have a fear of public speaking or a fear of being harshly judged for their ideas. The fear of speaking is one of the most common fears most of us share. The good news is you can overcome it.

Start small and expose yourself gradually to bigger groups until you master the art of public speaking. Take on 3 – 5 minute speeches at your office meetings or say something at your birthday party to the audience. Remember that every master was once a disaster. Nobody is born with the skill, it takes practise and determination. The only question is how much do you want to succeed.

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