July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month and to celebrate, I’ve invited a team of speaking experts to share their best tips and tricks for improving your speaking skills and overcoming speaking anxiety.
Flying in Formation: Public Speaking for the Timid
By Dan Kusnetzky
After I’ve spoken at an IT industry event or to a church group, I’m often approached by members of the audience with questions about public speaking. During the conversations, their fear of speaking to a large or even small group usually comes up. I try to help them understand the techniques I’ve used to speak with audiences of over 8,000 people. The same approach works just as well with a small audience. The first thing they have to do is address their fear and learn that it may not be real – only a projection of their own creative thinking.
Surveys about our fears often show that fear of public speaking tops the list. This means that people say that they are more afraid of speaking in front of a group of people than being told they have a terminal illness! If we dig a bit deeper into this we soon see that people typically fear speaking, acting, or performance in any public venue. The experts, we learn, often say that what we really fear is rejection or its cousin ridicule.
Where does this fear come from? Have we been physically harmed because of a public appearance? Probably not. What is really happening is that we are projecting failure in our personal future and then act as if it is real. Then we “protect” ourselves by avoiding any opportunity to present in public. I’ve heard it said that the word fear is really an acronym for False Evidence that Appears Real.
There are ways to overcome this fear. The first step is to examine what is really occurring to determine if the threats to our own personal safety are real or the result of our creative ability to prevent personal failure or rejection. The next step is to learn more about the topic we’ve been asked to address. Experts often point out that knowledge counters fear.
In the age of the Internet, it is often quite straightforward to learn enough about a topic that we are likely to know more about it than most members of the audience. We always know more about what we’re planning to say than members of the audience. This knowledge can be used to counter the fear of presenting.
The next challenge to address is organizing what we know so that it is informative, interesting, and, if at all possible, entertaining. This means sorting through the material and creating a narrative that has a definite beginning, middle, and end. It is typically better to help the audience understand the data by telling a story about what it means to them.
I help my clients understand manual and software-based approaches to organizing their thoughts and how to rehearse a successful presentation. I usually introduce them to mind mapping as a way to organize what they know and what they have learned allowing them to tell an engaging story. I also instruct them on how to pass the “reasonable person test.” That is helping members of the audience better understand why they should care about this topic.
If a speaker isn’t clear on the topic or how to address it in a meaningful and interesting way, the audience is likely to find it confusing and, perhaps, a bit boring.
It is okay to feel nervous before presenting. One of my coaches told me that everyone gets butterflies in their stomach before presenting. The difference between amateurs and professionals is that the professionals have learned how to make those butterflies fly in formation and provide energy for a successful event.
Interested in learning more about our techniques? They are summarized in my book How to Master Public Speaking: Overcoming fear and learning tools to master public speaking which can be found in the Amazon Kindle Library.
FREE OFFER >> Kusnetzky Group offers a free 30-minute coaching session to new clients as well. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About Dan Kusnetzky
Dan Kusnetzky has played many parts in the market for information technologies and has helped guide several billion dollars of investment decisions. He’s been a consultant, software engineer, a product manager, a product marketing manager, a vice president of marketing, an industry analyst, head of research operations and is a well-known author and speaker. His research and the resulting insight and opinion have been published on ComputerWorld, InternetWorld, ZDnet, CNET, Virtualization and Cloud Review, Network World, BBC Online, CNN, MSNBC and many major business and news publications. He’s the author of the O’Reilly Media book, Virtualization: A Manager’s Guide, Making the IT Decision series of books, and How to Master Public Speaking. He’s known for helping make complex technology clear and understandable.
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Want more information on how to overcome the fear of speaking? Check out the first post in Speaking Palooza 2019: The ultimate guide.
Does Speaking Make You Nervous?
Discover 13 practices that will help alleviate your presentation fears and anxiety.
Inside You’ll Learn:
- Five ways to reduce anxiety before your audience arrives.
- Four practices to reduce anxiety as your audience arrives.
- Four things you can do to calm down right before stepping up to the platform.