It’s a fact that more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of death!
Speaking in public has never bothered me – I’ve been doing since I was 19.
In my first job as a vacuum cleaner salesman, we had compulsory weekly team presentations. The purpose was to develop our speaking skills and build confidence.
In fact, in all the jobs I had in sales, I was expected to do regular public speaking gigs – whether it was presenting to groups of ten to 20 people or thousands.
However, when I started my business, the regular exposure to speaking stopped.
A few years passed without any significant need to speak publically and I was asked to do a speech at my best mates wedding.
To my surprise, I’d lost it. I was terrified – thinking about what I was going to say kept me up at night and I nearly told him I couldn’t do it.
After a bit of a pep talk and some advice from a very experienced public speaker and coach – I managed to pull myself together and deliver my strongest speech yet.
Here are my five top tips to overcome the fear of speaking:
1. Plan what you’re going to say
Planning your speech is so important.
The last thing you want to do is find yourself in front of a room full of people, without a clear idea of what you want to say – unless you’re incredibly experienced and comfortable with giving off-the-cuff speeches. If you’re not, then a simple plan can put you at ease and help you deliver a powerful message.
Start with a brainstorm and write down all the ideas, stories and themes related to the topic you’re going to cover.
Once you have an idea of the form you want your speech to take, you can start to break it into chunks with a paragraph for each idea/message.
If you can – try to open your speech with a story – this brings people in and will make you more relatable.
2. You don’t have to be funny to deliver a brilliant speech
Yes, funny speeches are great but speeches that try hard to be funny and fail, are just cringe-worthy.
You need to be you.
Some of the most powerful speeches aren’t funny at all – just watch a bunch of TED Talks and this will be wildly apparent.
3. Keep it short and simple
We’ve all been at the receiving end of that speech that goes on and on and on.
The best speeches are short and sweet but deliver a strong message.
If you don’t have a time limit for your speech – set one – three to five minutes max.
Giving yourself a time restraint will help you when you plan the content. It’ll also make you more ruthless when you’re choosing what information to share.
This approach will help you stay focussed on the key points of your story and not take wild tangents when you’re up on stage and the nerves take over.
Practice can make or break your speech. The key here is to nail the first minute. If you can get off to a strong start, you’ll establish your flow and are more likely to be relaxed in your delivery. It also gives you confidence and will help you avoid going blank.
5. Embrace the butterflies
It can be incredibly unnerving when you stand up to make a speech and you’ve got a bunch of eyeballs staring back at you. But nerves are good – they mean that what you’re doing is important to you.
Channelled in the right way your nerves can make you laser focussed and bring out your best performance.
Nervousness triggers the fight or flight response. You can choose whether you want to give into your fears and run or whether you want to stay and tough it out.
If your response is to fight, you’ll immediately focus on what you need to say – you’ll feel invigorated, forget about all the eyeballs staring back at you and deliver a rousing speech!