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How to Overcome Fear and Enjoy Public Speaking

Public SpeakingDo your palms sweat, knees shake, heart race, and stomach fill with butterflies whenever you are asked to speak to groups? Mine used to and I would let the fear stop me from saying yes. Guess what? I still feel those sensations but have learned some valuable tips that help me to channel that nervous energy and get the butterflies flying in formation so I can seize opportunities that arise. You can too.

This week I had the honor and pleasure to speak at the 2016 Phoenix SCORE Small Business Symposium. During my preparation and delivery, I reminisced about of some of the public speaking techniques that I have learned during my past 30-years as a public speaker and facilitator.

Prepare

  • Build up a reserve of information—be ready with 100 times the amount of information than you can possibly share in the allotted time.
  • Develop clear written objectives, an agenda, and bullet points about what you would like to accomplish. Resist writing out your presentation word for word. Instead, let your slides and bullets prompt your thoughts.
  • Arrive at the room early enough in order to get everything set up and ready to go before the first participant appears. I have found that there is always something that needs to be tweaked to match my preferences. Test all the equipment that will be used. Technology doesn’t always cooperate as intended, so be ready with an alternate plan if necessary.
  • Keep everything organized and professional-looking to reduce distractions and optimize your efficiency (i.e., chairs orderly, supply table neat, posters straight, attractive handouts, layout highly technical training tools).

Connect

  • Dress just above the level of the best-dressed person in the room. You’ll feel better and your participants will see you as the professional you are.
  • Check your ego at the door. Deliver your presentation in a conversational way.
  • Welcome each participant as he or she enters the room. This will ease both your and their anxiety.
  • Hold their attention—present information using a variety of ways in which people learn best (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic, creative, analytical). Tell relevant and entertaining stories. Build in exercises. Use exhibits and metaphors to demonstrate concepts and principles.
  • Meet your audience at their present level of consciousness and strive to lift them to a higher level.

Engage

  • When you begin, engage the participants within the first 60 seconds. Ask a question. Have them greet a neighbor. Something to involve them.
  • Engage people’s hearts and minds—lasting transformation occurs only when the heart is involved. Personal stories and examples are a great way to connect heart to heart.
  • Keep PowerPoint slides simple, using few words and nothing smaller than a 24-point font size. Remember also that a picture is worth a thousand words. You want people to focus on you and your message not straining to read wordy slides.
  • Allow people to share their unique point of view. Be a spherical thinker—see everyone’s viewpoint (opinion) as a valid point on a sphere.
  • Deliver what you’ve promised so that you maintain your integrity with your audience (or reach consensus to do otherwise).

Flow

  • Keep the energy moving and building; don’t let the momentum drop.
  • Trust your intuition to know the perfect questions to ask and the right exercises to use to help the group progress
  • Mix it up—keep things interesting and fresh by varying the exercises and by occasionally springing surprises upon your audience.
  • Don’t be afraid of a little chaos—it’s a natural part of the process. Trust that order will eventually appear.
  • Maintain the delicate balance between achieving results and allowing time for dialogue.

Enjoy!

  • It’s easier to be a speaker or facilitator if you love people.
  • Have fun with the people in your audience. A smile and a little appropriate humor go a long way toward lightening up tense situations.
  • Give it your all by pouring your heart and soul into it.
  • Don’t take things personally—people are never upset for the reasons you think.
  • Look for opportunities to WOW!—make the experience unique, memorable and enjoyable.

I hope these tips help you to overcome fear of public speaking and hone your own speaking and facilitation skills.

What other public speaking techniques do you use?

Much success and fulfillment,

Ray

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(Adapted from Chapter 15 in my new book Energize Your Business: Engage Your Employees with an Inspiring Strategic Planning Process. Read free chapters and learn more at www.EnergizeYourBusiness.biz .)

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