Deal with your fear of public speaking

Some people say they’d rather die than give a speech — and they’re not kidding around.

A survey by U.K.’s Daily Mail Online asked 2,000 women to share their top fears. Up at the top of the list was losing family members, followed by being buried alive. The third top fear was speaking in public, which trumped traditional fears like dying, snakes, spiders, heights or going to the dentist.

Different people are affected differently too, from minor nervousness to a full-fledged panic attack, which is a symptom of glossophobia, an actual fear of public speaking.

In the business world, effective communication is even more vital. An employee’s standing, the company’s reputation and maybe even its financial well-being may be on the line if you get your words mixed up, so the anxiety level to perform may even creep up past “buried alive.”

A company owner or manager also needs to fit the profile of an effective leader and be prepared to speak when appropriate, even if he or she has the same butterflies in their bellies about being tongue-tied as everyone else.

Like it or hate it, being able to communicate orally is a big part of being an effective leader.

A company leader is always “on,” and required to communicate well, whether they’re in a small meeting or giving a speech to the masses.

But communications expert do say there are some strategies to at least look like you’re confident and articulate in your choice of words and delivery.

  • Take a class – Even if it’s just Dr. Michelle’s 15-minute free presentation transformation, any work with a professional can help you overcome any public speaking challenge you face. Think about what you need to communicate through your speech and your biggest challenge in reaching your goal. What do you want your audience and you to get out of your speech? Remember, the only reason you should ever give a speech is to make a change.
  • Join a Toastmaster International club – After you work with me, Toastmasters is a great way to practice. This organization combines business networking, with a focus on oral delivery and politely critiquing others. There are more than 14,350 clubs in 122 countries, so it should be easy to get an invite and meet your peers in a comfortable environment.
  • Reinforce your message with writing– Unless you’re speaking purely off the cuff, you can easily repackage your speech notes into a message, maybe for your company’s internal newsletter or a mass email to the whole company. This will allow people who missed it to hear your words and remind everyone else. If you’re speaking at a community event, consider business card printing. Handing out cards will remind people who you are and associate your name with your message.
  • Enjoy the discomfort – Forbes suggests that business professionals serious about mastering speaking skills should look for every opportunity to speak up, since it all counts as practice, even when you stumble. Take comfort that your typical audience will be supportive and want you to succeed, especially if they know that you’re working to accomplish this goal.

Like any new skill, public speaking isn’t learned over night. You may always get clammy hands and a pounding heart when you address a room full of people. But, the important thing is knowing you can do it and knowing that you can make a difference through your speech.

photo by: Freddie Peña