One of the best ways to market your practice, build your brand, and just get your message out is… public speaking.
When someone hears you talk, they get to experience you, and see you in “action.” When you speak to a group of people, you build trust between yourself and your audience, all while establishing a connection with them.
Hmm… if only it would be that easy!
Because for most of us, the sheer idea of standing in front of a group of people is enough to send shivers down our spine and make our stomach knot up. We get sweaty palms, get nauseous, and feel the urge to make a mad dash for the exit.
While for some, public speaking amounts to a full-blown phobia (Glossophobia), for others, it’s more like an intense dislike. They will speak in public if they must, even though it makes them feel nervous and uncomfortable.
So what about you? Are you afraid of public speaking?
While you may have your reservations, you don’t have to let it stop you from getting the word out about your practice.
Here are 10 strategies to help you conquer your fears and reservations about public speaking.
#1: Know your topic; know what you’re talking about. If you do, chances are you won’t easily get thrown off course. And if you know your topic like the back of your hand, you‘ll have more confidence, even though you may be nervous.
But what if you’re not as familiar with the topic? Then prepare your presentation and go through it repeatedly. Practice, practice, practice! Chances are you’ll give a memorable presentation, and when you spend time on preparation, you’ll get a boost in confidence too.
#2: Prepare high-quality content. Start with a detailed outline, and from it, create your talk. Try to incorporate anecdotes and analogies to help your audience relate to the presentation. Support your main points with slides, infographics, charts, and other visuals. Not only does it make it easier for people to connect with your ideas, but it also makes your talk more engaging. Generally, we remember more information when we both hear and see it, compared to only listening.
#3: Practice. Unless you’re a natural entertainer or experienced speaker, odds are you will benefit from practicing your presentation. Present it to friends, family members, or colleagues first, before taking it “on stage.” And don’t be offended or hurt when you get critical feedback. Put it to use and improve your presentation and your delivery of it.
#4: Use positive affirmations. Confidence is critical when it comes to presenting. Stand in front of a mirror and tell yourself: “I’ve got this.” Tell yourself you’re going to do a good job. Next, write it down and internalize that belief. You may also want to practice visualizing your success. Picture yourself delivering an excellent speech. Picture your audience engaged and enjoying your talk.
#5: Talk to your imaginary friend. If you find yourself nervous when in front of the crowd, or if you find it hard to connect with them, visualize someone you both know and like, sitting in the back of the room. Make your presentation to them, and only them. When your focus on your imaginary friend, you won’t be as intimidated by or concerned with all the other people in the audience.
#6: Take a pause. No matter what you’re talking about, if you talk too much, or too fast, you’ll lose the crowd. Make sure you incorporate intentional pauses into your presentation. Give people time to digest and catch up…
#7: Don’t fear silence. You might think that if you’re speaking to an audience, that silence means they’re bored. Not so… Just because your audience is quiet doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested; they may merely be listening or thinking about what you’ve said. Stay on track with your presentation, and don’t worry about it too much.
#8: Avoid jargon. No matter what line of work you’re in, you’re probably used to speaking some words unique to your profession, aka jargon. Not everyone will understand it, nor are most willing to ask for a translation. So, it’s best to keep things simple so that everybody can understand and benefit from your presentation.
#9: Avoid politics. Unless you’re a standup comedian, don’t go there… ever! Generally, it’s best to stay away from polarizing topics like politics or even jokes. There’s no guarantee that everyone in the crowd shares your political views, humor, or is open to them. Even if the majority of people are not offended by what you bring up, odds are someone will be.
#10: Learn from the best by modeling them. Watch TED Talks or attend public lectures. Experience what others do and what works for them. And then, apply what you’ve learned and use it in your own talks. At the same time, pay attention to what doesn’t work and, no surprise here… don’t do it. Your everyday life is your classroom when it comes to overcoming your fear of public speaking.
Practice Makes Perfect…
What else can you do to help conquer your fear of public speaking? In other words, where could you practice your speaking skills?
- Join Toastmasters. This international club provides a venue for people to come together to practice public speaking. While there is a small fee to join the organization, you’ll have the opportunity to overcome any fears, become a better speaker, and network with like-minded people.
- Take a course on public speaking. Most community colleges will offer some public speaking courses. You’ll not only get the opportunity to practice your public speaking, but you’ll also get tips on how to do it right. You can improve your speaking skills and conquer any fears or hesitations you may have about public speaking.
- Join a book club. Book clubs, of course, are platforms where everybody reads something and then gets together to talk about it. This can be the perfect, friendly place to share your thoughts on what you’ve learned, all while practicing speaking to a group.
Here you have it… a long list of things to help you conquer your fear of public speaking.
And here’s something else to keep in mind. Chances are the more you practice public speaking, the easier it will get for you.
So while at first, it may be nerve-racking, over time it will get easier… promise. But of course only if you keep at it!
Join the conversation! Leave your comment or question below!
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”