Does the very idea of speaking in front of an audience or a group of people leave you quaking in your boots? Or do you feel like you are ready to start your presentation and then suddenly the nerves kick in when you survey the room, and you can’t shake that dry feeling in your throat? You’re not alone. Speaking in public (even if it’s just to your team or colleagues) can bring feelings of fear, dread, anxiety and stress to the surface.
I’ve done a lot of public speaking this week (and this year) which I love more than anything and it’s something I love to do too as a leadership coach and a CEO. But I do understand that not everyone finds public speaking easy to do and I know that the thought of speaking on stage is enough to get some leaders to run for the hills. However, as a leader, it’s something we will all have to do at some point in our professional lives. So, learning how to control or get past the fear of public speaking is something we must adapt to.
To show your just how common the fear of public speaking is, check out these studies:
· A study conducted by Texas Christian University found that speaking-related anxiety peaks for most speakers immediately before their speech begins and recedes after the first minute or so of talking.
· Some researchers have estimated that as much as 70 percent of the population experience some fear of public speaking.
· Some researchers believe that type of speaking anxiety is prevalent in 15 to 30 percent of the general population.
· One survey of nearly 500 respondents in Canada found that a third of the respondents reported excessive anxiety when speaking before a large audience.
While you may not be able to completely get over your fear of public speaking, you can find ways to cope or make it easier on yourself when you do have to speak in front of an audience, no matter how big or small. Being a great leader means being able to adapt to situations that may make you feel a bit uneasy and having the courage to do something, even if your nerves are telling you that you can’t.
So, how can you learn to overcome the fear of public speaking?
1. Practise your speech (and practise some more!)
If you have an important upcoming speech to make in front of board members or even members of your team, you should practise beforehand. Check your calendar and find some time in your busy schedule to practice the speech, even if you must do it at home. Practise at least 4 or 5 times, so that you have a clear vision of the speech in your head. Use bullet points, make the font in your script bigger or use palm cards if it’s easier for you.
2. Make eye contact
This isn’t as scary as it sounds, I promise. But a big part about public speaking is being able to connect to your audience and to know your target audience. You need to be able to read the room. Don’t just focus on the one person in the audience for your speech, take your time to look around the room as you speak. You will find that you will feel less anxious and feel more like you are just speaking directly to a person.
3. Focus on your material
Make sure that you know your topic like the back of your hand because the better you understand a topic (and the more you care about it) the less likely you will go off track or make a mistake. By focusing on your material, you will be able to recover quickly if you do get lost. Don’t forget to also have a think about what questions the audience might ask and if you know your topic, you’ll find question time easier.
4. Deep breathing and self care
Go easy on yourself and practise deep breathing before your speech. Don’t spend the days before your speech, letting your nerves get the better of you. Take some time for some self-care and try and relax. You can even read your speech over a cup of tea. Once you get to the stage, take a couple of deep breaths, smile at the audience and do the best you can.
5. Get organised
Many great speeches have been let down by a lack of organisation. So, make sure when you know that you will be making a speech that you get organised ahead of time by carefully planning out the information you need to present. Make sure you are organised with props and have a couple of run throughs before the day, just in case some of the equipment or the PowerPoint presentation doesn’t work. The more organised you are, the less nervous you will be.
I truly think the greatest difference you can make as a speaker is to speak from the heart, to be vulnerable, share stories and make it about he audience. It is so important they walk away feeling something and putting something into action. I still find it scary however I embrace the fear to get to courage and the more you step into it, the more you will love it. It is about making an impact. A difference. Having a voice. Stepping in and standing up. Using your voice and wisdom to change lives. Be that voice and courage and let me know when you are going to use it!
By Sonia McDonald – CEO of LeadershipHQ And McDonald Inc. Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO And Award Winning Author.
Sonia McDonald is changing the face of leadership across the globe. She believes we should lead with kindness and courage, from the heart, and is known for her mantra ‘Just Lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her transformational coaching, leadership training programs and cultural transformation for organisations and encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped thousands of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.
Sonia is a founder and CEO of McDonald Inc., LeadershipHQ and Global Outstanding Leadership Awards and Conference. For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of leadership and she is beyond committed to her mission around building a world of great leaders.
She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader. She has been recognised by Richtopia as One of the Top 250 Influential Women across the Globe and Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs. She is also rated as one of the Australia’s motivational keynote speakers.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is a leading coach, an award-winning published author of newly released First Comes Courage, Leadership Attitude and Just Rock It! and has become an in-demand motivational keynote speaker on leadership, kindness and courage.
Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, kindness, empathy and courage as well as building outstanding leadership across the Globe.