Fear of Public Speaking

“We want you to give a little talk at next month’s meeting…”  Those words are enough to send most people into a state of panic.  Would you offer to speak or would you flee?  Do you have a fear of speaking in public?  Have you ever considered that this fear – and your lack of skill in public speaking – is hindering your career? 

It is and it does.  To succeed in business you must be able to effectively communicate your message.  It is not just the words that you say that matter.  You also must use a tone of voice that matches your words if you want your audience to believe you and to be receptive to your message.

Here is a little exercise that I use when I coach clients on improving their presentations.  It is especially effective in helping to overcome the fear of speaking in public:

1) Tell a story – any story.  Something that you heard or saw today.  Something that you read – but don’t read the story.  Rephrase the story using your own words.

2) You can start this exercise alone – but speak it out loud!  You might feel silly at first, but find a quiet place and just start telling the story.  Stand when you speak and look at your surroundings as you tell the story – this is one audience that will not laugh at you nor fall asleep!

3) As you gain confidence, ask a close friend to listen to you as you tell your story – you don’t have to tell them that you are practicing for a speech.

4) Children’s bedtime stories are great sources to use for your practice.  Notice how your tone of voice changes during the story!  Notice how you naturally speed up and slow down as the story evolves.  Notice how – in this case – you achieve the desired effect: your audience does fall asleep!

Audiences will remember a story. They will most likely forget the facts and figures from your presentation. But they will remember a personal story – especially if it is told well. Start collecting stories – and always find an opportunity to tell people that story – you are practicing and building your skill set.

The best public speakers are the best story tellers.  Notice how they skillfully incorporate stories in their presentations.  Learn how to communicate – tell your story!

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