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Fear of Public Speaking: Truth or Marketing Jargon?

Lady SpeakingPublic Speaking is terrifying, according to a number of coaches that train you to overcome your fear of speaking. Research indicates that 64% executives are ‘anxious’ about speaking in public and 89% believe that not speaking with clarity has impacted on their career progression. Some people fear speaking in public more than death.

I am reading posts like these frequently at the moment. Adding the ‘Fear’ factor into marketing training is a powerful hook, particularly for those who are not comfortable or confident about speaking.

I know how they feel. At school, I wouldn’t speak out in class and as a prefect, I paid other girls to lead the prayers in assembly to the whole school, when it was my ‘turn’ to do the dreaded duty. I was terrified. Yet, when I was older, I was able to perform as a singer in front of hundreds of people. So what changed? I developed a range of skills and experience. I still get nervous, but I have learnt from my mistakes and experience to improve.

So here are my top tips for developing your public speaking skills. I offer a range of Public Speaking training, so if you want more information contact me to arrange a free one to one discussion about your public speaking fears and how I might help you.

1. It is perfectly normal to be nervous before any public speaking or presentation event. It is a performance like a sport or musical event. Part of the process of performing is that you are nervous beforehand. That is good because you have adrenaline to give you more energy. It is a case of getting used to that feeling, managing it and using it to your advantage. That’s what successful performers do, whether they are musicians, sportsmen or performers.

2. Like any skill, you develop techniques by practising or rehearsing. I suspect many of the executives that were questioned had concentrated on the skills they needed to be promoted. Now they find they are required to give presentations and represent the company. My HOT tip is to grab any opportunity to speak in front of others – whether it is to the local Cub pack, your old school, for a charity. ANYTHING, to get some experience and confidence.

3. Know your audience. The local cub pack is a different audience from a board room; speaking to the Rotary Club on behalf of a charity is different from presenting to a potential client.  You will approach and deliver a presentation to audiences in different ways. Do your homework beforehand, so you are prepared.

4. Build up your skills. If we use the performance analogy (although public speaking is a performance), the best performers and sports people are not overnight sensations. They have worked for many years on their skills, experience and pushing their fear limits! What appears to be easy and natural is actually years of hard work!

5. Practice makes perfect. Jonny Wilkinson was a phenomenon: not just because he’s gorgeous and a great rugby player, but because he was constantly practicing his technique – which was already awesome. He pushed himself for excellence. Of course for mortals, we can’t devote all day, every day rehearsing minute details, particularly if we have a role that involves other tasks, BUT we can all learn from Jonny in that rehearsing and always pushing your own boundaries leads to better results.

So let’s change the idea that Public Speaking is more scary than dying, to one that can be a great way to communicate with others and one that if you push your boundaries can lead to great personal rewards!

Book your 15 minute one to one to discuss your Public Speaking challenges and how I can help you.

Susan Heaton-Wright
About the author

Susan Heaton Wright is a former opera singer who works with successful individuals and teams to make an impact with their voices and physical presence. Using her experience in using the voice and performing on stage, she works with people to improve their performances in a range of business situations; from meeting skills and on the telephone, to public speaking, presentations and appearing on the media.

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