What comes to mind when you think about public speaking? Apprehension? Nausea? How can I get out of this? These are all common reactions when most people think about speaking to a room of strangers. In this week’s story, best-selling author and hall-of-fame keynote speaker, Dr. Tony Alessandra, offers readers tips for conquering your fears and becoming an effective, informative, and entertaining speaker.
Public Speaking 101T he number one fear of most adults (even above death) is speaking in public. Yet the ability to communicate to groups of people is a skill which can make a critical difference in your career. A study conducted by AT&T and Stanford University revealed that the top predictor of success and upward mobility, professionally, is how much you enjoy public speaking and how effective you are at it.
“My father gave me this advice on speech making:
Be sincere … be brief … be seated.”
— James Roosevelt, son of FDR
Actually, almost all of our speaking (outside the shower anyway) is public speaking … it’s just the size of the audience that changes. Public speaking can take many forms: presentations to a large audience in a public forum, presenting a proposal to a conference room of board members, or addressing one other person in a formal environment, such as a sales presentation.
We have all experienced presentations from the audience side and we have seen them range from the dynamic, mesmerizing speaker to the person who reads his notes in a never-ending drone. If a presentation is boring and unprofessional, it can leave you with nothing but a weak round of applause, or even worse, a lessened reputation in the professional community. On the other hand, good presentations can provide opportunities for growth in power, control, recognition and prestige. Effective public speakers establish themselves as experts to whom individuals can turn to for advice.
Training the Butterflies
Almost every speaker, actor, musician, and performer experiences stage fright … that feeling of sweaty palms, jelly knees and a stomach filled with butterflies. While the fear never goes away entirely, professionals know that you can make the butterflies fly in formation. In other words, you can learn to manage your fear.
First you must understand that stage fright is a very normal reaction. Cicero, the brilliant Roman orator, wrote, “I turn pale at the outset of a speech and quake in every limb and in all my soul.” It even affected Sir Winston Churchill, who compared his pre-speech anxiety to the sense that a nine-inch block of ice was sitting in the pit of his stomach.
If these famous speakers were so affected by speech anxiety, it makes sense that, for the novice public speaker, the audience might as well be made up of cannibals. The clues to the speaker’s terror include: a quaking voice, trembling knees, lack of eye contact, erratic pacing or rocking, stomach butterflies, pronounced monotone, and a blank facial expression. These conditions are evidence that the speaker is so overwhelmed with self-consciousness that he has lost control of the communication process.
You can overcome stage fright if you are ready to approach it with the right attitude. The way you look at yourself, the audience, the subject, your preparation and delivery, and the anxiety itself has a direct impact on how you will feel when you walk toward the podium. Developing this attitude can help you convert the grinding fear which paralyzes you and makes you ineffective into a positive anxiety which keeps you sharp and motivates you to be the best you can be.
Developing the Attitude of a Successful Public Speaker
Remember that you are the expert. The reason you are in a position to speak publicly is because of your knowledge of the subject. The person who asked you to speak believes that you have something of value to share. The people attending the meeting believe that they will receive information of value.
Therefore, your primary duty is to understand what your audience needs to know and prepare the message and supporting materials in a way that delivers your message clearly and powerfully. Make a strong, whole-hearted commitment to your audience. Concentrating on them and their needs will help you forget about your own self-consciousness.
A good presentation requires careful planning. A lack of planning is always apparent.
Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, internet entrepreneur, business author, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He earned a BBA from Notre Dame, a MBA from the Univ. of Connecticut and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University (1976).Known as “Dr. Tony” he’s authored 30+ books and 100+ audio/video programs. He was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame (1985) and Top Sales World’s Hall of Fame (2010). Meetings & Conventions Magazine has called him “one of America’s most electrifying speakers”.
Dr. Tony is also the Founder/CVO of Assessments 24×7. Assessments 24×7 is a global leader of online DISC assessments, delivered from easy-to-use online accounts popular with business coaches and Fortune 500 trainers around the world. Interested in learning more about these customized assessment accounts? Please contact us.