By Yushi Jai
You need to give a toast at your best friend’s wedding, or make an acceptance speech for an award you’ve won, or sell a group at work on a new project—and you’re dying inside because this is one speaking engagement you can’t say no to.
You aren’t alone. Also known as glossophobia, the fear of public speaking is one of the very most common fears. As with any fear, the best way to overcome glossophobia is to deal with it at its roots.
Fear #1: I won’t know what to say.
Is it hard for you to talk about your favorite sports team, or a book or film you thoroughly enjoyed? Probably not. You know how you feel about it and why. Delve into your topic until you find at least one point you can be passionate about, and build on that.
Fear #2: What will people think of me?
It’s human nature to be largely self-centered. While that’s not a very happy thought, it’s good news for you, the nervous public speaker, for two reasons: First, most people are more focused on their own perceived flaws and shortcomings than they are on yours. Second, your audience hopes to gain something from hearing you speak; they want you to succeed. Just be yourself.
Fear #3: I will be so nervous that everyone will notice.
An excellent way to set you and your audience at ease is by starting with a story that is both relevant to the topic of your presentation and that you feel comfortable telling. A little humor, if appropriate, also helps.
Fear #4: My mind will go blank.
Having thoroughly rehearsed notes will decrease the likelihood of forgetting what you have planned to say. Highlight key points in your notes to help you quickly find your place if you stumble.
Fear #5: I won’t be able to hold my audience’s attention.
In this age of multitasking and input overload, attention spans are getting shorter, so be succinct. Brief anecdotes are catchy, and humor provides breaks. Use a few clear facts or figures to support your point, but too many of those can be confusing and wearing. Visual aids help present material quickly and clearly. Programs such as PowerPoint have been created with the seminar presenter in mind. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
* * *
“Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.”
—Dorothy Sarnoff, American opera singer and image consultant (1914–2008)
“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
—Mark Twain, American writer and humorist (1835–1910)
Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.