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7 tips to push past your fear of public speaking

Rita Perea is president and CEO of  Podium photo for Iowa Biz blogRita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consultingspecializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Here it is... Your big chance to impress people. You’ve been given the amazing assignment of developing and delivering a “knock-their-socks-off” presentation to the entire North America team of directors in your company. If you hit this presentation out of the park you will be noticed for that promotion you've had your eye on.  There is a lot riding on the success of this golden opportunity. You are up for the challenge!

And then...When you mentally picture yourself standing at the podium delivering your message, alarm bells begin going off in your head. Your heart starts pounding.  You feel like you have been punched in the gut. The fear of public speaking is rearing its unwelcome head.  

The most important question to ask yourself is what do you do to regain your self confidence and hit a home run? 

I was asked to be part of a public discussion where the issue of “Presenting with Confidence” was the hot topic. Drawing on my 25-plus years of public speaking experience, and my business of coaching others in this area, I wanted to offer you seven tips to push past the fear of public speaking.  

1. Plan Your Content and Delivery

Another way to think about this is Message and Methods. First pinpoint how much time you will have at the podium. Step two: write down all of the critical, must-have information that you want share with your audience during the time you’ve been given to speak. Step three: Review your notes and determine the top three critical points in your message. Step four is the time to focus on how you will deliver your top three points to your audience. These are the methods you will use for your presentation. Powerpoint? Whiteboard notes? Graphs and charts to illustrate your critical points?  

Bonus tip:  This first step is the hard part. Do not wait until the day before the presentation to do this prep work! In the professional speaking world a good rule of thumb is 4 to 1: Four hours of planning for every one hour of presenting.  

2. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Now that you know what you are going to say and how you will say it, it’s time to practice the delivery. Many people find it helpful to record their voice as they are practicing their presentation. Videotaping yourself is also a great way to identify voice inflections, hand gestures or body language you may want to change. 

3. Warm up the audience

After weeks of planning, the day of the big presentation has finally arrived! Be sure to arrive at your event location as early as possible to check the technology set up and the microphone. After you are confident that you are all set up, and the audience begins to trickle into the room, give people a warm “hello” and shake their hands. This will help you build rapport with your audience before you begin the delivery of your message. This is also a secret weapon for fighting the butterflies you might be feeling in your stomach. 

4. The first 30 seconds

A surefire, no-fail way to calm your nerves and begin to maximize your impact is to walk up to the microphone, take a deep breath and smile! The combination of breath and the smile will help you gain control of your emotions and oxygenate your voice for better clarity. After smiling, begin building audience rapport by graciously thanking your event planners or hosts before launching into the presentation. 

5. Stories bring the point home

No one is asking you to be a comedian here. As you develop your content and presentation delivery strategy (tip #1), be sure to sprinkle in a few well-crafted, tasteful stories to help illustrate your critical points. Brain-based research shows that cognitively we use stories that drive an emotional response to learn new information.  You want to create stories that create emotion in the audience members so they will remember the points you are making. 

6. Actionable steps

Your presentation has inspired your audience to do something new or different - to find out more about the topic, change a thought or perception, persuade others, or have different behaviors.  Whatever those few actionable steps are that you want them to take, leave behind a reminder on a document, card, bookmark, etc. as the call to action in your presentation. 

7. Leave them wanting more!

There is never enough time to answer all of the questions that an audience may have. When it is time to end, tell the audience that you will be available to talk individually and answer questions after the presentation. Be sure to provide your phone number and email information so you can be contacted with follow-up questions.  

While public speaking is the #1 fear for most people, with preparation, practice and poise you can overcome your nerves and present with confidence. 

 ©Rita Perea, 2015



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