Fear of public speaking is widespread. When we coach people to become better public speakers, it’s one of the most common problems we see. What many people don’t know is that many famous people also share this fear. Winston Churchill is a great example of a leader who did not enjoy public speaking, but you would never guess that he felt uncomfortable.
In fact, many of the CEOs we work with have admitted to sharing this same fear. One CEO of a FTSE 250 company even told us: “All my life I have avoided presentations. But now I am the CEO and I have staff, shareholders and analysts all who want me to present. What do I do?”
First, there is no simple solution. Each person is different. Some people suggest that you should imagine your audience naked. We are not great believers in that approach. But, if that works for you, great.
A few weeks ago we worked with an Irish woman at a large oil company. She was convinced that she was a terrible public speaker. She hated public speaking and that she believed she would never enjoy speaking in public. After working with her for a few hours she (and we) realised that she had a real talent. She was sharp and she was witty. She could harness words and humour to transform complex ideas into clear communication. Afterwards, she understood that she had to completely rethink her self image. Then she could demonstrate her huge public speaking talent.
The Benjamin Ball Associates approach to overcoming the fear of public speaking is a 3-step process:
STEP 1 – Start with a good talk
Most public speaking problems occur because the presentation is crap. If you start with a poor talk, it’s going to be a poor performance and you have every right to feel scared. A great talk is easier to deliver. There is plenty of advice in this blog about how to put together a good talk.
STEP 2 – Change the relationship between you and the audience
Does a teacher feel scared when standing up in front of pupils every day? Does a lecturer feel scared when speaking to students? Work out what your audience will get from your talk. Then, like a teacher, set out to make sure you achieve your goal. By having a clear goal, it is easier to feel less exposed when speaking.
STEP 3 – Practice
You get better by practicing. And practice does not mean going through your first written draft over and over again. It means testing your first script, refining what does not work so you make it better and better each time. When I prepare for a big talk, I might change half my talk during the practice. “If you falter, alter.” should be your preparation motto.
There is no simple solution to reducing presentation nerves. It’s something that gets better over time. But to reduce your presentation nerves you need to work at it.
Anyone can be a confident public speaker, it just takes practice.
First, download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.
You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming dull, forgettable and un-engaging presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.
It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:
Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.
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