Public speaking remains one of the biggest fears that people wrestle with, and it is only made worse by the fact that we seem to be speaking in front of groups more and more often! Office meetings, sales presentations, networking events; our schedules are filled with opportunities to share our ideas in front of an audience (and get nervous about it…). It’s worth developing your comfort, though, because confidence in public speaking can have a direct and positive influence on your career success.
Even experienced professional speakers get a little nervous before they take the microphone. But what if you are in the category of people who “would rather be in the casket at a funeral than giving the eulogy”? How can you deal with your anxieties and find success behind the podium? The quality of your message isn’t going to matter if you are quaking in your boots while you are delivering it.
Professional speakers know that fear is part of an internal conversation they are having with themselves, and they know that if they can influence that conversation, the fear will subside. It might not disappear completely, but it will become manageable. Here are two things that speakers keep in mind that help them put their fear in its proper place:
1) They want you to do well. Remember, any sort of public speaking is a collaborative process. You and your audience are working together – don’t think of it as “you vs. them”, but rather as everyone being on the same side. It can be easy to fall into a trap of thinking that everyone is looking for you to stumble and fumble, but in reality, they want your message to be amazing. No one likes sitting through a bad speech or presentation. They will be forgiving of your mistakes, and if you keep that thought in mind, you’ll find that you make less of them.
2) A certain percentage of your audience (it’s bigger than you think) isn’t paying attention to you. They are lost in their own world – they are thinking about the insight you just shared, how what you are saying impacts them, or, just as likely, when they are going to pick up the dry-cleaning. Few of us are good at giving our undivided attention for a long period of time. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ve done it yourself many times; you have drifted off into your thoughts and came back realizing that the topic has changed. So the audience is actually a lot smaller than you realize. Even if you do make a mistake, not as many people will catch it as you think…
Speaking in public can be an anxiety-filled experience…but it doesn’t have to be. Keep these ideas in mind, and you’ll find that each opportunity becomes a little easier. Then one day, you’ll find you are actually having fun up there!