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Fight the Fear of Speaking
by Chris King

It has been said for years that when a survey asked people what their greatest fears were, the fear of speaking before a group ranked #1 — even ahead of death. I don’t have the actual facts on the survey, but I do know that the majority of people who are asked to present experience a great deal of anxiety. In this article, I will suggest ways to cope with the fear and anxiety that often accompany giving a presentation.

You Are the Expert! You have been asked to give a presentation because you have information that others want to hear about from you. Remember, you are the expert — you have the knowledge that your audience is spending their valuable time to learn. Feel good about yourself. This will start you on your journey to confidence as a presenter.

The Audience Cares! Most of the people in your audience want you to succeed. If you are overly nervous and anxious, they will become nervous and anxious for you. It has been estimated that 50 percent of the audience will like you, no matter what you do; 25 percent will find something to not like about you, no matter how effectively you present; and 25 percent are “up for grabs.” To make even more of the audience members become allies, get to the presentation early and greet them as they come into the room. Or, if there is a chance to network before the presentation, take this opportunity to make some friends.

Be Prepared! At the risk of being repetitious in this series of articles, I can’t stress enough the value of preparation. The more prepared we are as presenters, the more confident we become. Pick the theme for your presentation, the three major points you plan to make, a strong opening and closing, and practice. It helps to write these on 3X5 index cards that you hold in your hand or place on the lectern. You may never look at them, but they are there, just in case you need a prompt.

Do Not Memorize! It is helpful to memorize your opening and closing and your outline, but do not try to memorize the rest of your presentation. I have agonized along with presenters who have forgotten the words they memorized, then become so flustered that they couldn’t continue.

Move Around! When we stand glued behind the lectern, we magnify our chances for anxiety. By moving — and I don’t mean pacing back and forth, which is distracting to the audience — we minimize our nervousness and add more interest to our delivery. Having props to use, writing on or pointing to a flip chart, or even moving into the audience can help both the speaker and the audience members. (note: avoid turning your back on any of the audience members when moving around. You will lose their attention.)

Pick Out Your Cheerleaders! As you look from one audience member to another — I do not advise looking over their heads, or scanning back and forth — you will find people who are nodding, smiling, and listening to your message. You will also see those who look bored or grumpy — even though they may not be either. Return your glances to the positive people who will spur your energy and confidence.

Visualize and Affirm! Before any endeavor, by visualizing your success and affirming your worth, you can make the difference between an average performance and a spectacular one. Be sure to take time to see yourself presenting your message to an enthusiastic group and know in your heart that your powerful presentation has made a difference in at least one person’s life.

If Your Fear of Speaking Borders on a Phobia, you may want to check out the website Change That's Right Now. Change That's Right Now can quickly and easily cure your fear of Public Speaking and many other fears and phobias. To visit it, click HERE.

Join Toastmasters! One of the best suggestions I ever received as an aspiring speaker was to join Toastmasters International. Not only will you learn how to make every presentation powerful and how to defeat fear, you will meet the most positive and affirming group of people in your area and the world. Most groups meet weekly and members get to participate, learning to think on their feet and how to prepare, deliver, and evaluate powerful presentations.

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