Posted on: March 16, 2020
Whether you’re a college student presenting a group project or a CEO addressing key shareholders, public speaking isn’t easy. It can intimidate even the most confident among us.
In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 75% of Americans have some level of anxiety related to public speaking. Glossophobia — the fear of public speaking — is more common than you think. But don’t despair! Follow these simple steps, and you can overcome even the most deep-seated fears and anxieties:
1. Start with a message map, showing your key message in the center.
Your key message should be a seven-second soundbite or a 21-word message, saying “I do X for Y, so they can Z.” This message must be woven into your speech (and any publicity surrounding your speech). You should also include supporting messages that bolster your key message, laid out in bullet points.
2. Plan the speech using your message map.
Again, lead with the key message, and then add supporting messages. Either write out a rough draft of the speech or use bullet points — whatever works best for you. If you are doing a PowerPoint or another slideshow presentation, plan that out accordingly. Remember, the fewer words in a presentation, the better. You want your audience to be focused on you, not the screen.
3. Consider your unique perspective.
Ask yourself, “How can I differentiate myself from other speakers?” Then, determine your “cornerstone content,” or the content that is uniquely yours. For example, my unique perspective is that we each need to build our personal brand in person and online. Once you figure out what sets you apart, it becomes much easier to develop unique messages.
4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Don’t just wing it! Practice makes perfect in many walks of life, but especially when it comes to public speaking. Whether you’re in front of the mirror or in front of others, review your speech numerous times. Become thoroughly familiar and comfortable with your content, especially the “cornerstone” messages.
5. Share your plans to speak on social media.
If it’s a public event, you want to get the word out. Invite your online network to come and listen to you. LinkedIn is a powerful tool in this regard since you can reach dozens of professional contacts in just minutes. Look at it this way: The more people in the audience who already know, like and trust you, the better you will be received.
6. Dress for the occasion.
Pick an outfit that fits you well and that you feel comfortable wearing. The goal with public speaking is to maximize confidence, and the way you dress can affect your confidence level. The sweet spot is to dress formally, but not in a way that restricts your movement or makes you feel (and look) too rigid.
7. The first impression matters.
Plan your introduction so it goes beyond your educational and work experience. What have you done that has made you the person you are today? Share that information in your introduction to make yourself memorable. Humor is your friend — self-deprecating jokes, for example, are generally well-received by people in the audience.
8. Experts shouldn’t feel nervous.
This cannot be overstated. If you are speaking in public, then you are effectively an expert on the subject matter. If you feel nervous, remember that people truly want to hear what you have to say. You have been selected to give this speech — no one else but you. Stand tall and proud, and deliver your message with authority.
9. Claim your space on the stage.
Use the area you are given, but don’t just stand there. Own it. Hiding behind the podium makes you look less confident and, by extension, as though you lack authority. Experts look like experts, too, and that starts with how they stand.
10. Don’t forget about the last impression.
Give the audience more information at the end of the speech, so they know how to reach you. If possible, collect email addresses or business cards. That way, you can follow up with people who could become valuable professional contacts. Building your network of contacts is ultimately the end goal of a speaking presentation. Remember that a smile will make you more relatable, so smile, and connect with your audience with gratitude in your final moments onstage.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in January 2020.