How to Shake the Fear of Public Speaking
6/22/2010Speaking in front of a group is often cited as one of the biggest sources of anxiety for working professionals. The idea of being the focal point for so many eyes is enough to cause many to avoid public speaking at all costs. But when workers do so, they risk seeming as if they have nothing to contribute and can debilitate their careers and business relationships.
Fortunately, there are several effective ways to prepare for public speaking. CIE’s Professional Development Center offers a two day workshop on June 29-30 called “Speaking in Front of People.” This workshop is designed to help you turn your fear into energy through personalized, interactive exercises.
Pat Schnee, the instructor of “Speaking in Front of People,” says that one of the greatest obstacles for public speakers to overcome is to stop thinking about themselves. “When you concentrate on yourself, you get nervous,” explains Pat. “You have to instead think about what your objective is and what you want your audience to take away as the message.”
Pat started her career in theater and later worked in casting and as an acting coach for film and television actors. She tells a story from this time in her career that illustrates a fundamental truth of successful public speaking. She once observed an actor preparing to step onto a movie set and perform. His dresser stopped him, just as he was about to leave the dressing room, and said, “Your zipper is up.” Pat says, “In that moment, it occurred to me that the actor wasn’t ‘present’ anymore. He wasn’t thinking about what he looked like or if his zipper was up or if his tie was tied, mentally he was on the set already, concentrated on his lines, his message, and the emotional energy he was going to bring to it. He wasn’t nervous or afraid or thinking of himself, he was ready.”
But how do you stop thinking of yourself, your appearance, what your voice sounds like? In the workshop, Pat asks volunteers to stand up in front of the assembly. “They hate it. They are thinking about how awkward they look or feel. But then we give them an activity outside of themselves - have them count the lights, the number of people seated - then they have an objective. And they have no problem.”
The workshop helps participants concentrate on the message of their presentation and on the audience’s expectations. “A surefire way of giving a powerful presentation is to look upon it as giving a gift to your audience,” says Pat. “Don’t think about yourself. Focus on the message and your audience. Know your audience and what it is they want from you. It’s the most exciting thing to do to get over your fear and deliver your presentation—‘I have this information and I get to give it to you—it’s a gift.’”
Pat offers the following tips to help you overcome the fear of public speaking.
- Confidence comes from knowing the material so well that your words, actions and body language are automatic.
- Don’t “wing it.” Being unprepared will show and won’t help your confidence.
- Give them information that leads to action. Why do you tell someone about a good movie you’ve seen? Because you want them to go see it, too. That’s giving information that leads to action.
- Studies suggest that people usually only remember three key messages from a presentation. Your presentation should have three main ideas to help your audience take action. 1) Why you should take action. 2) How to take action. 3) What you need to take action.
- Conduct a practice exercise: prepare a three point presentation (why, how, what you need) based on the following objectives. 1) I want you to go to Hawaii. 2) I want you to read my favorite book. 3) I want you to see my favorite movie. What will your presentations look like? What will the information be that you present?
Register today for “Speaking in Front of People” and receive personalized attention to help you give persuasive, successful presentations.