In my “How to Present Stylishly” post, I mentioned presentation tips and lessons I learned when I transitioned into a business career. A reader asked if I had any tips for dealing with the fear of public speaking. I shared with her tips I learned from Steven C. Toy (a great speaker himself) when he gave a workshop about presenting yourself and your business at the San Francisco Small Business Administration. I am going to share Steven’s tips here.
Fear of Speaking – Stress vs. Success
The stress during presentations usually arises from negative thoughts that make us our worst critics. Steven pointed out mindsets we should keep to present effectively.
• Thinking the audience will be critical vs. Knowing they want you to succeed
(I remember vividly when Steven asked us in his workshop “How many of you want the speaker to fail when you attend a talk?” No one answered “yes”. The truth is that no one, except for the occasional jerks, would want us to fail so we should eliminate that thought.)
• Thinking you need to be perfect vs. Knowing perfect is NOT necessary
• Thinking you are speaking to get something vs. Speaking to give something
• Thinking you have something to lose vs. Envisioning all you have to gain
• Thinking you can control the audience vs. Controlling the things you can control
• Trying to be the best speaker vs. Trying to be the best you
• Over-preparing vs. Trusting your instincts and knowledge
• Presenting too much information vs. Focusing on key points
• Thinking that speaking is hard vs. Knowing it is easy – You Do it Everyday
• Above all, be conversational
• The only difference between a speech and conversation is that you know more precisely what you will say in a speech
• Vary pitch, volume and pace in a manner that supports your message (watch how some politicians give good speeches)
• Practice with a recorder if possible
• Be natural and conversational
• Eliminate distracting mannerisms
• Let your body mirror your feelings
• Practice with a video recorder if possible
• Present in pieces
• Every aspect of your story should be able to stand alone
• Tailor each story to your audience by changing the lead-in and conclusion (you can practice giving an elevator speech to different types of networking crowds)
• Work on your opening and conclusion more than anything else
• Listen to yourself when you are speaking to friends in a relaxed environment and try to emulate those mannerisms
• Practice in front of employees, partners, parents, friends before you hit the road
• Record yourself with audiotape. Videotape yourself during practice and evaluate
• You will be your worst critic
Ask for the Sale
In business, you must ask for the sale. If you want another meeting, ask for it. If you want the sale, ask for it. If you want a referral, ask for it.
Steven made his talk for an audience of business owners and sales people, but I think this point is universally applicable. I would just add, in this tough economic time, if you want the job, ask for it.
Also, check out Toastmasters International for a more hands-on, yet low-pressure training. With chapters nationwide, they help people build confidence in speech and communications regardless of background. In closing, I will leave you with Lykke Li’s Everybody But Me. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or ask me questions about a specific area of my experience. So here you go. Until next post, be fierce (no fears)!