Are you an entrepreneur who wants to get your message out to more people? Maybe you’ve considered speaking to civic organizations and networking groups, but speaking anxiety is holding you back. If so, it’s time to tame the speaking anxiety gremlins.
I have a confession to make. When I was in school, I avoided taking speech classes. I was almost certain giving a speech was beyond my skill set, and it was definitely beyond my courage set.
So how did I get to the point of being able to put “speaker” on my business card? Why was I willing to step far out of my comfort zone to get training and learn how to communicate more effectively? And why do I now look forward to each opportunity to speak to groups of any size?
The transformation came when I learned to focus on the audience instead of myself. I realized I had valuable information to share with other people, and I was eager to contribute positively to their lives. You may have a similar desire.
As I’ve talked with coaching clients and other entrepreneurs over the years I have seen some common fears that keep them from public speaking. Some of these may resonate with you.
Fear #1. I’m afraid of what others will think. What if I make a mistake and look foolish?
Often we imagine that those listening to us are just waiting for us to make a mistake so they can criticize. But my experience tells me that this is usually not the case. Your audience is attending your presentation to gain information or to be inspired, not to judge your performance. They want you to succeed.
You will make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean your audience will turn on you. If you are well prepared and present your topic in an interesting way, listeners will overlook small gaffes. It simply means you are human.
Fear #2. I’m afraid something terrible will happen. What if I trip going across the stage?
If you listen to the stories award-winning professional speakers tell, you’ll soon understand that almost anything that can happen has already happened to someone before you—and they lived to tell about it.
Don’t talk yourself into being scared! Instead of imagining the worst, visualize yourself crossing the stage confidently, speaking with assurance, and accepting many accolades after you speak.
Fear #3. I’m afraid I’ll forget what I was going to say. What if I draw a blank in the middle of my speech?
It’s not necessary, or even advisable, to memorize your speech. (Nor is it usually effective to read it word for word.) It’s perfectly acceptable to speak from notes. I often create a speaking outline then color-code certain themes in my notes, so I can see at a glance what point I want to make next.
Fear #4. I’m afraid there will be technological problems. What if the microphone stops working or something else like that happens?
Recognize that from time to time there will be glitches, even in the best of venues. Many years ago I attended an event at a leading hotel in Atlanta where Martha Stewart was presenting a live program using two slide projectors. One projector stopped working and there was a bit of a delay until the technicians got it operating again. Then the program continued as if nothing had happened. Audiences are usually very forgiving and understanding when things happen beyond the speaker’s control.
Remember, public speaking is not brain surgery. If you make a mistake, no lives will be lost—not even yours! Relax in the knowledge that you are sharing your specialized expertise with those who will benefit from it. You may even find after awhile that you enjoy speaking to groups and that it has given you a wonderful opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.
Anita C. Lee, founder and CEO of Authentic Success, LLC, is a speaker, coach, and consultant who helps women entrepreneurs reach their greatest potential in their professional and personal lives. Author of The Authentic You: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be, Anita can be contacted through her website, http://www.anitaclee.com/