“Imagine your audience being naked!” This seems to be an archetypical answer people would get when they are looking for ways to get beyond the fear of public speaking. If there is any truth to it, it’s most likely aimed at making your audience a bit less intimidating. Picturing the people you are standing in front of, completely without respective trousers and tops, certainly will put the whole situation in the realm of ridiculousness.
But therein lies the problem of this method: it will already make a farce of the situation before you have even started to speak. And that undermines the core principle of the (public) speaking engagement, it’s supposed to be a transfer of knowledge to enlighten and/or convince the other party. Willfully making a mockery out of it, might as well result in you not doing it in the first place.
And that’s not to say that public speaking is easy. Although some people revel in the limelight (and don’t need much to speak for hours on end), for most it is right up there with most phobias. It is, in fact, a fear named glossophobia (glosso being derived from the Greek word for “tongue”). Some would say about 75% of the world’s population suffer from this. So it’s truly nothing to be ashamed of. But how do you overcome this fear, without missing the point of a public speaking engagement in the first place (or any other forms of, such as going on stage, doing a new business pitch)?
Here are some key tips.
Know Your Stuff
It’s 100% easier when you speak of something you know a lot about. For example, in business, you will find many people who would heap themselves on a pile of “I just can’t speak in public/I am bad at presenting” as it refers to the business context at hand.
But when you challenge them (as an exercise) and allow them to talk about their hobbies, their presentation improves tenfold. If you are both juggling remembering facts of what you are presenting and the actual presentation itself, things are bound to go wrong. If you take away the requirement of remembering (by talking about something you “just know”), things will become a breeze.
Having a passion for what you are speaking about will also help you to deliver your message much more effectively. Passion is infectious and can make you excited about something you might not have been that interested in beforehand.
Infectious speakers are usually passionate about what they talk about and will come across more authentic than someone who just drones up facts.
There are some great examples of people who excel at public speaking, like Sam Haskell – who have that enthusiasm and knowledge you are looking for in a speaker.
What Is Your Objective
Having an objective will help you reign in any overenthusiasm (this is where passion gets too much) and helps to deliver the message efficiently. Remember, it’s not about you, but it’s about your audience!
Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve (and don’t overstretch your goal!). Is it to get someone from a “never” to a “maybe”? Or is it to win new business? It is to get someone to be an advocate?
Bring It All Together
Bringing together knowledge that comes naturally to you, a topic that ignites you and a clear objective for that specific speaking moment will ensure you replace any fear with a hyper-focused purpose. Once you get going, you won’t even remember you had a fear of public speaking in the first place. All you will be doing is to have multiple dialogues with all the individuals of your audience at the same time.
You will be a public speaker master in no time.