Why is public speaking such an ordeal for so many people? There are probably as many reasons as there are people terrified of speaking in public. But for me, it boils down to 3 reasons: process, words and attitude.
Too often we create our speeches and presentations by writing them out first. We think of sentences in silence and write them down in silence. The major organ we use in constructing our speeches is our eyes.
Then we engage our mouth, the organ that will actually communicate our precious words. But by then it’s too late.
Our brain has already created something meant to be read – not spoken. So we wind up sounding stilted and unnatural because we’re either reading or trying to remember what we’ve memorized. This is stressful because it’s not how we intend to speak. There is an enormous difference in creating your content using your eyes or using your mouth.
Often public speaking is scary because we feel we have to impress with big words and complex sentences. We hide behind them, suppressing our authentic voice. It’s almost like speaking a foreign language.
At Podium we teach the TalkitOut technique as a way to liberate your authentic voice. We stress the need for simple words and simple sentences. So when you stand up in front of an audience, you sound like yourself. This really cuts down the stress of public speaking.
When people are terrified of speaking in public, it’s often what I call an inverted ego trip. A normal ego trip happens when you puff yourself up with feelings of superiority. An inverted ego trip is when you deflate yourself with feelings of inadequacy.
In either case, your focus is… YOU. You are afraid of the audience. You are afraid of messing up. You are afraid of forgetting your speech. It’s all about you, you, you.
Your focus should be… THEM. The audience. The very thing you fear the most, the audience, is the very thing you should embrace. Focus on the audience, not on your fears, for good public speaking.
Focus on how to help them understand your presentation. See everything from their perspective. The more you focus on the audience, the fewer fears you will have.
So here are three simple ways of overcoming problems with process, words and attitude:
- Prepare your speech or presentation by talking everything out first, before you write it down.
- Use small words in short sentences. Use everyday words… the words you are most comfortable with.
- Focus on the audience. Draw on them as a source of energy, rather than a source of fear.
Halina St James takes the worry out of presentations with her Present Like a Pro video training course. It’s available now from the Podium Coaching online store, together with her popular TalkitOut: From Fears to Cheers e-book and workbook.