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Monday, August 13, 2012

The perils of public speaking (and how to avoid them)

Occasionally, I've been required to speak in front of large groups for my job. This is in no way a favorite thing of mine to do. However, I have gotten really good at giving these types of presentations. I wanted to share what I have learned about speaking in public, and how to get past obstacles that may be holding you back in this area.

Fact: 75% of people have some kind of anxiety when it comes to speaking in public.

Don't let it become a phobia

For some reason, avoidance is a common way of handling the public speaking experience for a lot of people. The reason why they do this is because they are scared. And the truth is that fear can be mastered, if you face it. And only if you face it. If you avoid what makes you fearful, you become more fearful. If you face the fear, you realize it was silly to be scared of something so harmless. That facing fears is something required to be successful. And that it takes courage to succeed.

Don't avoid the inevitable

There comes a time in everyone's life when they have to face the music. Everyone will have to speak publicly at some point in their lives. That being said, that is not the time to speak for the first time in ten years. If you've been practicing getting up in front of an audience, that time when you have to get up will be much easier. Because you've forced yourself to get up before that, and it wasn't so bad. You know you can handle it.

Public speaking is the one skill that elevates the more successful individuals, and sets them apart. Not everyone is willing to do it, and the ones who speak regularly are seen as leaders. Public speaking is a vital element of leadership. It opens up a lot of doors (and windows) of opportunity. It would be sad to miss out on a great opportunity, only because of an unwillingness to speak in front of an audience. That is not a good enough reason to miss out on great possibilities in life.

Know where to look

One of the biggest morale busters while public speaking is looking at too many people. I know that might sound weird, but it's true. This is a recipe for loosing your cool quickly. You have to know where to look, and who to look at. And in which way. Don't look for a response from everyone. You are mainly there to talk about your point, not to catch facial expressions of people watching you. This could make you become paranoid, and forget what to say. It could throw you off, especially if you catch someone doing something negative, like rolling their eyes or doing something disrespectful.

Limit your focus on what you're saying, and look at the important people in the room. If your boss is there, look at him or her. Seek out people who are responding positively to what you're saying. Audio will be your cue where to look. Look where you hear a positive response to your message. Not everywhere. It will help you stay focused on what's important. Your message. And connecting with the people who are really there to hear it.

Know your topic

I've found that speaking in public gets much easier if I have an outline in my mind of what I'm going to talk about. If I really know my subject. This is where preparation comes in. There is simply no way to get around this. If you know what you're going to talk about, you will be much less nervous. You will feel more confident and strong. And realize that this is something you can do more often.

Don't get overly confident

This is where so many people fail. They have given successful presentations in the past, and now they think they can just show up. That they don't have to prepare. This is a sure recipe for disaster! You ALWAYS have to prepare. Always! Always! There is no way around it. Spend time thinking about, and writing out what what you want to talk about. Go over it many times. Rehearse. Anticipate questions from your audience. And when you think you're done preparing, make sure to go over everything again. And maybe even once more. You can never be too prepared. And you should never think you don't have to. You always do.

Just do it

One of the worst enemies of great public speaking is hesitation. When faced with a choice, the easy way out is not really the easy way. It leaves you with a sense of dissatisfaction and doubt. Actually getting up and speaking is so much easier than avoiding it. And gives you a new sense of belief in yourself. Speak up the next time you have an opportunity to do so. You will find it benefits you in many ways.

Thanks for stopping by...CC

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