You’ve been asked to “say a few words” in front of some industry peers or a room filled with potential customers. The opportunity is too great to say "no", yet you really want to turn down the opportunity.
Speaking is scary. You haven’t wanted to be the focus of attention since that time in grade school when you raised your hand, gave the wrong answer, and everyone laughed at you.
Taking a deep breath, or a few very deep breaths, and stepping forward into a visible situation as a speaker will build your business and your self-esteem in ways you have to experience to believe.
My speaking voice is in more than 400 million GPS and smartphone devices worldwide, and currently, I serve as the president of the National Speakers Association in New York City, so I know how challenging it can be. I may have been on the stage as a performer since I was five years old, but speaking professionally has not exactly come naturally. Overcoming chronic anxiety has been a step-by-step process over many years, and yes, it has been totally worth it.
Here are five tips for sharing with these audiences that can aid you in growing your business:
1. Fear is Only Fear: Life is filled with fears. They are everywhere. Just open the newspaper. There will be fear in your life one way or another. If you are going to be scared of something you may as well choose to take action on this one.
2. Get Your Intention Straight: When you are called upon to speak there are so many things to be concerned about. What will I say? What if I don’t remember everything I want to say? What if I run out of things to say? Practicing is fantastic, but the one thing you want to be certain about is your intention. What do you want to leave the audience with? What one idea or outcome do you want them to be able to remember the next morning or the next year? Your intention for your presentation need only be one sentence long. Everything else you create on your outline must support that one idea. It’s also much easier to remember an intention than an entire speech.
3. Keep the Focus on Your Audience: When I am leading up to a big event and I notice nerves creeping in, it is an indicator to me that I am thinking about myself and not about the people I will be presenting to. The moment I switch the focus back to them, the nerves go away. This applies on stage in the moment as well. If you are in your own head thinking about how you are doing, your focus is not where it needs to be. Maintain eye contact with audience members throughout. Keep your focus on the audience.
4. One Step at a Time, One Direction at a Time: Make the decision to take steps one gentle step at a time toward speaking confidently in front of groups. This could begin as simply as initiating saying a few words in front of a team to acknowledge someone’s victory or at a family occasion. Perhaps step one is raising your hand to ask a question of another speaker while part of a large audience. You can start small and build.
5. Mirror Mirror - One of the most confronting and effective ways to prepare to speak publicly is to give your talk in the mirror. That’s right, you are going to deliver your material to the person in the mirror. It is uncomfortable. It is weird. It leads to massive breakthroughs. If you can tell your story to yourself in the mirror, you will be free of many of the thoughts that can plague and distract a presenter. You will know exactly what you look like on stage so you can be focused on your audience. No more wondering what you look like and how you are coming across. You may need to start with just a minute at a time, but it works like magic.