The dreaded day is drawing nearer. Agreeing to the public speaking event that's looming up on your calendar now seems like the most stupid thing you ever did. It's one of your weak spots, so why on earth did you agree to it?Just thinking about having to stand up and speak is making your heart race, your palms get sweaty and your anxiety levels to go through the roof.
Those kind of worries and reactions rule out public speaking for many people. They decide it is one of those things to go in the column of things to be avoided at all costs, along with poisonous spiders, and zombies. The very act of having to stand up and speak publicly is daunting enough, but add in the pressure to deliver some vital information, give advice, tell a great story or make an audience laugh and the terror really sets in.
Let's get some perspective. Yes it's nerve-wracking, but getting out of a comfort zone and tackling something head-on is what builds character and brings self-development. We all face challenges that we hate at the time but have made us who we are today. Exams at school or university, job interviews, even the nerves of a marriage proposal - these are all moments of apprehension that shape us and take us to somewhere new.
Here are three tips to help you conquer your fears and step confidently into the spotlight.
1. Tell a joke.
A few years ago I put myself through a stand-up comedy course. It gave me a huge personal and professional boost. It was of huge benefit to my self-confidence, which in turn powered me on my entrepreneurial journey.
Prior to the course I felt stuck in a rut, but I learned a lot about myself over that six weeks. And I learned that laughter is a great tool to hold your audience's attention. The course culminated in a live performance, and whilst I still had the sweaty palms and the racing heart, I set-up my first joke, and when the audience laughed my heart leaped. I was flying. I had the audience in the palm of my hand for the rest of my routine, and I knew there and then that whatever I wanted to achieve in my career was entirely achievable and I'd never feel the same unease again.
So, try and find some common ground with your audience through comedy. Your jokes don't have to be complicated, but once you've got a few laughs you'll relax, and you'll feel the rest begin to fall into place.
2. Share a story.
Getting a solid structure for your talk is a great idea. Build the talk in blocks, making sure each block is relevant and adds value for your audience. Think of the talk as a story, with a beginning, middle and end.
To help devise a structure, think of public speaking like telling a story. The public speaking coach Patricia Fripp advised me that it's the first and last 30 seconds that have the highest impact of any public oratory, and that "The premise of your story should be that customers will be better off after using your company".
So your story must provide your audience with an everyday scenario, a conflict and a solution. Make your company the solution of every story you tell, with your customers at the forefront. They're the hero.
It's not something you can do overnight, so if you're not sure where to start with crafting a story for your business, why not check out a storytelling workshop? This could help you to develop a story strategy that really resonates with your target audience.
3. Share your idea.
Some further insight from Patricia Fripp is that public speaking preparation isn't complete without "the big idea". So, what exactly does this mean?
Quite simply, the big idea is the premise of the story. To tell an effective story, you must be able to distinguish exactly what your premise is, and you can only do this by having a full understanding of who your audience is. It's more than just placing your audience into a category. It's the language they use, where they spend time online, and the challenges they're currently faced with. You'll need to do some persona mapping to get the insights you need for this approach.
So, next time you get chance to do some public speaking, why not face the fear and grab the opportunity? Conquer that voice telling you "I can't do that", and you'll be better equipped to achieve the long-term goals you have for your business.