Public speaking is something most people dread. The fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, is something that could hold you back in your career and in your life. You will never get to to handle being in charge of a company, or to be honored as a commencement speaker or a keynote speaker, if you cannot speak competently. That’s depressing that such a fear could hold you back.
Even accomplished people were once afraid of public speaking
But here’s the good news – some very successful celebrities have had similar fears when it comes to being afraid of public speaking. Forbes.com recently wrote about how billionaire Warren Buffett and minister Joel Osteen were also once afraid to speak in public. Buffett, who could be a keynote speaker at any event and command a six-figure fee, said he was once “terrified” of public speaking – so much so, that he would avoid any college class which would entail speaking in front of others.
Buffett ended up taking a class with the Dale Carnegie organization to get over his fear. He says: “You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it’s enormously important. Schools, to some extent, under emphasize that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”
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As for Osteen, his father was a minister, and he was the behind-the-scenes person for the church until his father died. He said “I was scared to death” about preaching to the church. Now he is so accomplished at public speaking that he has spoken at places like Yankee Stadium to capacity crowds.
How to become better at public speaking
There are some things you can do to get better at public speaking. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Know what you are going to say inside and out
You cannot expect to simply “wing it” when you are not an expert public speaker. Toastmasters, the international speaking organization, says that you should “pick a topic you are interested in” and “know more about it than you include in your speech.” They say that you should also “use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.”
Don’t forget to breathe – and slow down
I notice that I speak very quickly when I get nervous, or when I speak in public. And I found that I needed to remember to breathe, and to speak slower. I consciously remind myself of that now. It is okay to pause for a second and collect your thoughts.
Show some passion
You don’t need to go all George Brett at the Pine Tar Game, but you should show some enthusiasm about your topic. If you drone on reading your speech in a monotone and seem bored, why shouldn’t you expect the audience to be bored?
Work on your speaking in order to improve it
Remember that public speaking, like anything else, is a skill that you must work at in order to get better. And it will, if you practice. Don’t let one bad experience get you down. Who knows – you could be giving a big speech of your own someday. Remember, a little-known politician by the way of Bill Clinton gave a disastrous keynote at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. A little more than four years later, he gave another important speech, this one more successful — his first inaugural address as President of the United States!