The fear of public speaking is one that plagues many. However, more and more of us are expected, or even required, to do it on a regular basis. Here are some relatively simple tips that can make the process a little easier:
- Know your target audience! I recently had a conversation with someone about this very issue. He was expecting a particular group to be in attendance and, instead, got an entirely different demographic. This happened to me early on in my career and, rest assured, I was never going to let it happen again. From that day on, I made sure I always had several versions of my speech prepared. This may sound complicated, but it really is not. It is just a matter of some very basic changes and, once you become skilled at public speaking, it becomes very natural to make the transition. I always arrive early and take a quick look at the audience so I am not caught off guard. I find preparation is the key.
- Know your material. When the subject matter is second nature to you, it becomes relatively easy to talk about. Then, the only challenge is the "public" piece. It is easy to talk about the subject to friends or family but a room full of strangers makes it a bit more challenging. In conducting research for this piece, I came across a very informative resource that I think you will find helpful. They go on to discuss various methods for managing the anxiety associated with public speaking that may be useful.
- Be engaging. Captivate your audience. Keep them interested. If possible, try to get them involved somehow so they will stay with you. You don't want to lose your audience -- that will only make you more anxious.
- Be creative. Some subjects are simply not that interesting! That doesn't mean the speech doesn't have to be given and that you aren't the lucky one that gets to deliver the message. Standing up there looking as bored as your audience and reading word for word from the screen of your PowerPoint presentation is not going to make the time go by any faster for anyone. If nothing else, they'll love your innovative style.
- Take a deep breath, slow down and smile every once in a while!
It is not the end of the world (though I realize it may feel like it at times depending on how severe your anxiety can be). Just remember that the more you do it, the better you will become. Good luck -- I know you can do it!