The ability to deliver a good speech in public is a skill highly valued. In fact, you can’t expect to be a leader or named as an influencer if you can’t face your audience and grab their attention effectively. You can use public speaking for many purposes such as persuasion, motivation, influence, informing or simply entertaining people.
But, what do I mean with public speaking? In my opinion, the meaning of public speaking contains a very broad range of different possibilities: telling a story to your friends in a bar; raising your hand and speaking in your class; speaking up in a meeting with customers; speaking in the workplace in the presence of your colleagues and boss; speaking in the court of law; talking with some of your employees; Speaking in front of 10/100/1000/10000 people; but even being interviewed by a TV or a radio reporter or being interviewed in a podcast by a blogger buddy could be considered as public speaking.
Each one of these situations generates a sense of fear that we experience as anxiety with a different degree of intensity, depending on your own circumstances and the situation itself. This anxiety can ruin your speech and holding you back from achieving your goals and dreams. This sense of fear is blocking your true potential. Free your life from this fear, reach your audience effectively and become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
If you have always been terrified of public speaking don’t worry because I’m going to share with you all my secrets to overcome this sense of fear.
1. The Socrates advice
The story tells about a young Alcibiades, at that time disciple of Socrates, who wanted to speak in public but he doesn’t know how to do it. He was extremely nervous. “How can I speak in public and express exactly what I feel and all what I want to say?” Alcibiades asked. Socrates, very calm, as usual, told him: “Do you talk to the blacksmith?” Alcibiades replied “yes.” Socrates continued: “Do you talk to the carpenter?” Alcibiades said “of course”. “Are you afraid of talking to the soldier?” “No.”“So then? What is it to you to talk to all of them at the same time?”
2. Be prepared: study and learn
You need to know what you are talking about. Learn as much as possible about the subject of the speech. But don’t be too broad with your learning. Spend your time on mastering what is really important. Ask yourself: What is the audience expecting from me? What are the essentials or the main points of the speech? Remember always this principle: It’s much better to know less but better than to know more but worse.
My advice: don’t memorize every single word of your speech. If you attempt to memorize every word you are more likely to forget things, you would start of making inconvenient pauses, your nervousness and anxiety would start to grow and your mind would go definitely blank. Memorize just the main points of your speech.
So, to avoid your anxiety, nervousness and tendency to panic when speaking in public be prepared.
3. The Demosthenes method: Practice in your home
Learn from Demosthenes, the best orator of all time, who built an underground study where he exercised his voice, shaving one half of his head so that he wouldn’t be drawn into the involvements of society. What a great and hilarious idea: shaving one half of his head in order to avoid going outside and get distracted from the important thing: the speech.
Besides, Demosthenes had a speech defect, “an inarticulate and stammering pronunciation” that he overcame by speaking with pebbles in his mouth and by reciting verses when running. It’s incredible. Isn’t it? The world’s famous orator of all time had a speech defect. It proves that with hard work, perseverance and determination everyone can achieve success in almost any life endeavor.
Demosthenes also corrected any facial distortions by practicing in front of a mirror. So, you can master your ability to speak in public in your own home, where you feel comfortable and with no pressure. Study your speech and then practice in front of a mirror, as Demosthenes did, or even better take a video camera and film yourself. I prefer the last one because you can focus on your delivery and once you’ve finished your speech you can check how you did it over and over again. When watching the video you have to take note of every gesture, every weakness of your delivery and ask yourself: How can I improve it? How can I deliver my message more effectively? Answer these questions and then implement your new ideas over and over again, check the result until you feel confident enough to speak in public.
4. Become resistant to fear
How to become resistant to fear? Challenge yourself and take any opportunity to speak in public. Once you feel confident enough you have to face your fear of public speaking, because the only way to overcome a fear is facing it with courage. My advice and what I’ve been doing since I was a child: challenge yourself; take any opportunity that comes your way to speak in public. Is your teacher asking a question? Raise your hand and answer it. Are you in a conference with an audience of 1.000 people and the speaker welcomes questions? Great! Raise your hand, take the microphone and ask an intelligent question. The bigger is the challenge the greater the learning is. I’ve spoken in front of large groups of people many times; I’ve been interviewed on TV several times; some radio interviews as well; etc. The idea is to take the opportunities to speak in public whenever you come across them, every single day of your life, until you become the speaker you want to be.
5. Build confidence little by little with small successes
If the fear to speak in front of 1000 people is too big and you just can’t face it you should start with little challenges and build on that, reaching, step-by-step, the goal you want to achieve. Maybe you could speak in front of 10 people and once you feel confident enough you can face bigger challenges. Build your confidence little by little. Build your courage facing your fear of public speaking again and again, but do it bit by bit. So, take the next step and keep on going and going after your true potential as a public speaker.
“Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something.” Frederick Smith.
Face your fears, beat them, become a master of public speaking and live your dreams!
I will publish “How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking (Part II)” in the following days.
Written by: David Cantone
My Twitter: @DavidCantone
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Now, I’m looking to you for some wisdom:
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