Did you know 27 million Americans fear public speaking? What's more surprising is the impact this fear can have on your career. Despite the fact that fear of public speaking has a 10% impact on wages and 15% impact on getting promoting (who knew?), only 8% of people with this fear will ever get professional help.
As someone who does a lot of public speaking, I want to share some tips to help minimize some of your anxieties and fears.
Find your passion
What are you passionate about? What is your area of expertise? What makes your face light up and shine when you talk about it? Don't just think about your day job, but other areas of your life you enjoy. The best speakers focus on a particular niche they are passionate about. Even if you aren't talking about this niche, you can weave examples into your talk (think of fishing or running analogies to make a point).
What's your point?
Now narrow down the focus of your talk to THREE key points you want the audience to remember (even if the audience is four people). What is the essence of the information you're trying to convey? By sticking to three points you won't ramble and your audience won't be left guessing what's your point.
Know your audience
Who are you talking to? How do they like to receive information (analytical, statistics, stories or a combination)? Make sure you tailor your message to meet the needs of your audience, not how you like to get information. For example, talking to the general public is much different than talking to work colleagues or peers.
Just like running a marathon, you need to start training before you stand on a stage and deliver a talk to hundreds of people. It's the small successes that will build your confidence and help you test out new tricks and techniques. Make a point of talking at staff meetings or more comfortable settings. Take the time to prepare, practice your points, and refine as needed.
Look for opportunities to speak on a regular basis. This could be through joining Toastmasters, taking a course, offering to introduce a speaker at a conference, and, gulp, speaking at a public meeting. You may never fully get over your fear of public speaking (which is okay) but with practice, you will feel more confident standing up and having your voice heard.
Listen to others
Despite the fact I've been speaking professionally for over 20 years, I'm always looking for ways to grow. One easy trick is to closely watch other speakers and the audience's reaction. Are they focused on their message? What techniques do they use to engage the audience? Asking questions? Walking around (versus hiding behind the podium)? Pausing for group work or conversations between participants (a great way to engage people without the focus being on you)? Take notes and test out at least one new technique when you speak.
Finally, be patient. Your fear of public speaking has been a part of your life for many years. It will take some time to build your confidence and find your voice.