Have you ever had to stand up in a company meeting, present a project, or pitch a new client… and you freeze? Suddenly, your mouth dries up, your voice quivers, your heart is pounding, or your body shakes. Guess what? You are not alone! More than 75% of the population has experienced some fear or dread around public speaking. In fact, research has shown that the fear of public speaking outweighs the fear of snakes, heights, and even death! That’s called “glossophobia,” and it can happen anywhere, at anytime; in the workplace, in a job interview, in a classroom, even at a party or networking event. You can be the most intelligent person with the most most interesting things to say, but when you become the center of attention, all bets are off.
The good news is that no matter where you are today with your ability and/or comfort to speak in public, everyone can get better at it. It is a learned skill. Improving your skills as a public speaker will take your career to the next level. According to Chris Anderson, head of TED, and author of TED TALKS – The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, “if you know how to talk to a group of friends over dinner, then you know enough to speak publicly.” I’ve just started reading his book and so many of the things he suggests I have been practicing my entire career as a journalist, public speaker, and now executive coach. Why does what you have to say “matter” to your audience? In other words, what’s in it for THEM? Not you, them? Why should they spend any amount of time listening to what you have to say? I ask my clients those questions all the time when they are preparing to pitch a new strategy, or present their latest research/data, or give a speech of any kind. To share all of that information/content, your structure or format needs to “connect the dots” for the audience by using real examples, interesting stories that resonate with them.
Look, we may not be as good as Winston Churchill or Eleanor Roosevelt, but neither should that be the goal. As Anderson would say; “take your ego out of it, and let yourself be the delivery vehicle for the ideas themselves.”