Studies show that public speaking is #1 on the list of fears of the average person. If this is true for you, it’s time to confront your fear of speaking and make this critical skill a valuable part of who you are as a professional. Here are some ideas to help you become more effective at public speaking.
- Practice! Seek out some easy opportunities to practice. Ideas include community events, classroom visits, or school committees. Nothing forces one to up the game more than being accountable to an intelligent group of professionals for quality content delivery and facilitation.
- Seek feedback. Ask your peers for specific feedback on your speaking performance and effectiveness. What should you do more of? Where do you need to improve. Don’t settle for, “that was great!” No one gets better by being told they were great. Ask: What worked? What didn’t? How could that presentation been more effective?
- Seek help. Search on “Toastmasters” and find a local chapter and join! These remarkable groups of professionals all understand the benefits that accrue from strengthening speaking skills and will become your best feedback and support network. In the rare chance you end up in a chapter that doesn’t work for you, don’t give up…just switch to another one. I’ve pushed more people than I can count into Toastmasters and almost to a person they have prospered in part because of their growth in self-confidence.
- Reference a good book or great blogs. My favorites: “The Exceptional Presenter” by Timothy Koegel or the blog (Public Words) and books of Dr. Nick Morgan.
- Engage a Coach. People use coaches for great reasons. They view us objectively and clinically and can offer the critical input we need to eliminate weaknesses, close gaps, and enhance strengths. Don’t let the cost slow you down. The cost is small when factored over the course of a career and evaluated against the potential benefits.
- Volunteer. Yep, you heard me. After a lifetime of sitting in the back row dodging the teacher’s eyes, it’s time to stand up and assert your great ideas. Once you recover from the out-of-body experience from raising your hand for a speaking opportunity, you’ll find it exhilarating.
The Bottom-Line for Now
Don’t let a common and irrational fear of speaking in large groups stand in the way of your success. Developing the confidence to stand, deliver and engage is liberating and professionally profitable.