Speaking in front of people is vital for your progress and development, both personally and in business. You know that already, but it’s important to understand its importance and why the sooner you tackle this obstacle, the better. Let’s do this.
First Off: It’s OK
Your fear of public speaking (if you don’t have one, you must be a robot*) is natural. After all, you care about the result, and you can’t predict the result. However, your fear may manifest itself as a sinister, crippling sensation that makes you want to immediately leave the building: “Er, just popping out for a few, er… days. Nothing major. Bye!”
* This statement is false. (Ha ha! Gotcha, robot!)
The Two Techniques
Every time you stand up in front of people in a situation that matters, you probably feel uncomfortable. Here’s the bad news: that fear isn’t going to go away. I don’t believe that fear and confidence are at opposite ends of a scale, but that they co-exist; the ‘confident’* speaker does two things to stop their fear preventing them from doing their best:
- They accept their fear.
- They prepare properly.
* Well, they look confident, anyway.
Accepting the fear is hard, but once you realise that fear of speaking is normal, part of the process, and simply an unhelpful little demon (or Chimp) with little significant basis (you’re not in physical danger by speaking), then you can see that it’s an instinctive reaction, beyond your control. Slow your breathing and look at the facts: you know your subject, the audience wants you to do well, and it’s simply not as big a deal for your audience as it is for you. They may feel fairly indifferent about your piece, it’s just not that important to them and they probably won’t give it much thought. Relax. This pressure is coming from you, not them.
Preparing correctly is where a lot of speakers mess up, because it feels easier just to not do it. And it is easier. But that’s the choice you’ll regret when you’re in front of all those people, floundering, when you should be doing the bare minimum: delivering something that you put a decent amount of effort effort into. Write, rehearse, hone it, get comfortable with it, and hey – perhaps even try to enjoy it.
Every bit of experience builds your skill and reduces your nerves. More bad news: this skill fades like any other if you don’t apply it. The good news is obvious: the more often you speak, the more skilled and confident you will become. Obvious but rarely applied. Bonus good news: as with any other skill, the better you get, the easier it becomes and the more you can actually enjoy it. Quite a leap, perhaps, but I promise you that with enough preparation and practise, you will enjoy your speaking.
The more determination you attack your fear with, the more easily it will crumble. Get some help from an organisation like Toastmasters, seek out a coach, or volunteer to speak at your nearest PechaKucha. Or more immediately, speak for a minute or two at your next company meeting, volunteer to give that short presentation, see if you can speak at that conference. The rewards will come, you just have to start getting