Ways to conquer your fear of public speaking
If you’re a small-business owner who does a lot of networking, it’s likely you’ve been asked to do some public speaking. Mind you, we’re not talking about the big conference room type stuff with 300 people in the audience, but instead smaller venues like at a lunch-n-learn, after-hours mixer, or networking breakfast.
It’s an exciting proposition to share your knowledge, and you’ve seen plenty of business owners step up to the plate and do great. But there’s just one problem: you’re scared out of your boots.
If public speaking has you all tied up in knots, here are 8 tips to help you overcome those fears:
You may have aspirations of one day captivating a large audience, but starting with the smaller venues mentioned above – where you may only have 10 to 15 minutes to speak, and you’re surrounded by at least a few familiar faces – is a great way to get your feet wet.
Even someone who enjoys standing in front of strangers will struggle if they aren’t prepared. Better preparation means a better performance, right? So take the time to create your presentation, map out the areas you want to touch on, and practice a lot (in the shower, in front of the mirror, with a loved one who won’t judge you).
Don’t sell, share stories with value
An easy way to get a crowd on your side and to settle those nerves is to talk about your experiences, the “why” behind what you do for a living, and the chance to talk about what matters to you and your audience – not by putting together a sales pitch. Share your knowledge; it’s a lot easier.
Don’t be afraid to use index cards
There’s a misconception that you must memorize your entire speech or presentation, and that only adds to the anxiety of talking to a crowd. As you prepare for your talk, write down key points on index cards and don’t be afraid to refer to them. If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, don’t be afraid to look at that, too. If you’re comfortable up there, and you’ve prepared ahead of time, you’ll be surprised how little you will rely on them.
Take your time
Many people get so nervous that they rush through their presentation, often creating confusion and forgetting a lot of their key points along the way. Focus on pacing yourself, using shorter sentences when you speak, and pausing from time to time to catch your breath.
If you’re nervous heading into a big presentation, invite some friends to be in the audience, so you have some friendly faces to look to for support. Promote on social media that you are going to be at a specific event, and open it up for anyone to attend. There’s nothing wrong with asking for support.
Don’t look at your speech as a chore
Get up there and have some fun. This is your chance to share your knowledge, talk a little about your business, and possibly develop some relationships along the way. A speech isn’t a chore, and if you are acting like it is, then you will create more nervous tension for yourself.
Learn from your experience
Whether your first time in front of a crowd was a success or a failure, you can always learn from it. Take what you didn’t like about your presentation or delivery and tweak it. That way, you come back stronger the next time. As you gain experience, the nerves will subside.