Clammy hands. Dry mouth. Quickly beating heart. If the thought of public speaking prevents you from being seen (and heard) in your community, you are not alone. The fear of public speaking, called glossophobia, is considered a social anxiety disorder and affects millions of people.
We spoke recently about the importance of speaking in public for the betterment of your business, your customers and, perhaps most important, your reputation. To reach potential customers and to remain top of mind with the ones you have, you will need to be visible. Whether it’s speaking at a local event one-on-one, standing up in front of a room full of people, or providing consulting advice to small groups, your speaking skills need to be polished in order to present your best self.
However, if you are uncomfortable addressing a group – large or small – public speaking can be challenging. Fortunately, there are steps to overcome this feeling. Your local community college probably offers a few public speaking classes, and there are many online courses. Before you sign up, consider these simple tips:
- Do your research. The better you know your topic (and the audience you are addressing), the better you will feel. Take time to explore your topic fully, especially if it’s a new aspect of your services or a new line of products. Next, check the stats of the group expected to attend; knowing the demographics can help you prepare your script better.
- Keep it short. It’s a good idea to prepare what you are going to say beforehand with the knowledge of how long you are expected to speak. Take a few index cards and jot notes. Keep your points brief and examples ready. Prepare for potential questions and have a few answers on hand, especially if the topic is technical. It’s also a good idea to provide information to the audience, such as handouts or a website address.
- Practice makes perfect. To build your confidence before the big speech, practice what you are planning to say. Invite your closest family members or your trusted employees to listen, and be receptive to constructive criticism. If you have a thick enough skin (and if you don’t, try to develop one) you will find the advice helpful.
- Go easy on yourself. It takes time to get a speech just right. Often times, it will take an actual presentation (or two) to get a feeling on timing and audience reception. And even if you enjoy public speaking, if you haven’t stood in front of a room in a while, it may feel awkward at first. But, like riding a bike, the confidence will return quickly.
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