Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

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In any presentation, there are two stories. First, the story that you tell yourself. And then, the story you tell to others. To overcome the fear of public speaking, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the first story right. Because fear may never go away, but there’s no reason to let your nerves control your message.

Of course there are a number of external techniques that you can use to create a better presentation.

  • You can work on your speech and diction
  • You can work on your non-verbal communication (body language)
  • You can work with a coach to identify methods of strengthening your message and your delivery

As a communications coach, I’ve worked with thousands of presentations (and presenters) over the last few years.  And, as you might expect, I’ve developed a number of techniques and “quick fixes” that can be employed when you need to take your presentation to the next level.  These strategies are particularly effective when:

  • You want to overcome the fear of public speaking
  • You want to be more engaging and compelling for your team, your employees, or your organization
  • You want to deliver a keynote presentation that commands greater fees
  • You want to look good on camera; making sure your appearance on television or on social media will showcase your skills and your message

But before you try any motivational mumbo-jumbo (or presentation jujitsu – that’s what I call these external techniques and tricks) you have to make sure that the inside message is correct, before you work on the outside.  The story that you tell yourself is always the first story I focus on, because that’s where every presentation really begins.

You may not have the time (or so you think) to really practice and rehearse your presentation.   Maybe that approach is ok when you are going over the budgetary numbers with your boss, or reviewing next quarter’s projected inventory with the CFO.  Those are not necessarily “high stakes” presentations.

When your message has to matter, you’ve got to practice before you preach.

Always look for the second right answer

Step 1, if you want to overcome the fear of public speaking

Here are some ideas that can help you, when you need to change your story (and change your results):

  1. You CAN Shift Your Focus:  Consider the story that you tell yourself, first and foremost.  WHY are you giving this presentation?  If your answer involves an obligation (such as, “The CEO requested it”, “the R&D team needs to know what we are building right now”, etc.) consider: is there a broader reason, or another reason, why you are giving this presentation?  I mean, if you are just relaying information, why not send an email?  The high-stakes presentation is always about action – inspiring action in some way.  Don’t just deliver the news – deliver a compelling story, and think first and foremost about the action you’d like to create.
  2. More Important than Fear:  how do firefighters go into a burning building?  Even with advanced training, that’s a life-threatening situation.  However, what firefighters know is that the people in danger are more important than their fear.  Speaking in public is always scary.  To overcome the fear of public speaking, you’ve got to make something more important than your fear.  What happens if what you have to say is exactly what people need to hear?  If you’re spending a lot of time thinking about how disastrous your presentation is going to be…maybe you should entertain the exact opposite thought?  What happens if you win? What happens if you “nail it” – and what would that look like?  Fear never goes away – but some things are more important than your nerves.  My coaching helps clients to find what’s more important than the fear of public speaking.
  3. The Easiest Rehearsal in the World:  turn on your camera and videotape your presentation.  Have a friend tape your rehearsal, and then: WATCH THE VIDEO.  For all of my coaching clients, I use video.  Why?  So that my clients can see and hear what they are doing, not just from my point of view but from their own.  Many times, a client will identify the “course corrections” once they see what’s going on.  My coaching philosophy, for overcoming the fear of public speaking: when it’s your presentation, you owe it to yourself to participate in the process of creation – as well as the delivery!  It’s not easy to watch yourself on video, but (as they say) the camera never lies.  Reviewing a video of your practice session is one of the most valuable coaching techniques ever – and one that I use myself on a regular basis!

Need to know more about how to make your next presentation your best?  Going in front of the cameras, to create a video course, or appear on television, or…audition for Shark Tank?  You don’t have to go it alone!

The “Contact” button in the lower right is a great way to take action – so that you don’t make the same mistakes, and you can really overcome the fear of public speaking!



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