Speaking in public – even about the business you love - is a widely held fear. So how do you turn fear into confidence?
1) Speak in public whenever you get a chance
It doesn't matter if it's for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Even if it's just saying an affirmative 'Yes'. Take that first step. Step forward and take the opportunity. By starting, and breaking through the fear – even for a moment, you’ll find that in no time you will be unstoppable.
Smile and look them in the eye. Confidence is contagious. Your listeners will also feel happy and smiling.
3) Speak about what you know
Your background, your history and your experience are unique. People love to hear others share their unique perspectives. Use material from your past or present as an avenue into your content. It allows others to enter your world and experience it through your eyes.
Leave them gasping for more. Brevity is key. You should be able to deliver your message in a few well considered sharp and clear sentences. If you tend to be 'longwinded', you will need to wind it up and cut it down. Keep it snappy, focused and concise.
Humour brightens up our lives. It also endears us to the speaker and their message. Even a hint of humour can put your listeners at ease. However, use it wisely – too much and your message can be lost in the jokes. So sprinkle it rather than ladle it.
6) Use pictures
A picture speaks a thousand words. You can compose word pictures (verbal descriptions that paint vivid pictures) or use actual pictures to clarify or focus your message. People love colourful, creative images. Let your visual imagination, flow. You’ll be amazed where it takes you – and your audience.
7) Act as if
If you still feel your stomach churning and your legs wobbling; act as if you are cool and calm. Don your mask of confidence, smile, look them in the eye and speak. They will never know that inside bubbles volcanic dread ready to erupt but held in check by a cool, calm exterior.
8) Find a mentor
They should be able to help you grow through listening, feedback and advice. Someone who can already do well what you dread is the ideal mentor and their experience and skills are just what you need.
9) Be ambitious
Set goals. Adjust them. Review them. Always set them a little beyond your reach so that you have to stretch. Often today's 'stretching' is tomorrow's 'within reach'.
10) If at first
Try and try again. Keep on getting up and giving it a go. No matter how badly you feel it went (and it is usually never as bad as you think) – get up, try again and focus on improving through practice.
Don’t always speak at the same groups. Go to the next town, or visit groups you’ve never met before. This will broaden your physical and mental horizons. It gives you new material, new experiences and new feedback. It creates a cycle of expansion that will help you develop your speaking – and your business.
12) Use 'I'
The 'I' word is powerful. Use it often, but use it judiciously. Use it to reach out and connect with your listeners. Use it to express feelings, experiences and thoughts. The 'I' comes from your heart, your soul and encapsulates your individuality – the part of your business that no one else can copy.
By following these tips you can overcome your fears of speaking in public. They will take you from pen and page to people and public – and connect you with new customers.
By Frances Cahill, Toastmasters International