Jerry Seinfeld joked, “Most people would prefer to be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.”
He was referring to the well-known statistic that people fear public speaking more than they do death. Even when I was a red-faced, shaky-voiced speaker dreading the podium, being alive was still preferred, but no doubt standing in front of a crowd is an uncomfortable experience for many. Even seasoned professionals, who are excellent communicators one-on-one, can lose their stream of sensibility in front of a crowd.
Inevitably, you’ll need to speak in public, so why not learn how to overcome your fear and master the skill?
Recently, I attended a speaking and presentation skills school hosted by Patricia Fripp. I’ve long since overcome my fear of public speaking, now earning my living as a professional speaker and corporate trainer, but polishing my skills and learning from arguably the best in the field seemed like a good investment.
Overcoming fear of public speaking requires practice. The first of two other strategies that really helped me was realizing that the content and delivery had absolutely nothing to do with the speaker.
The entire focus is ensuring the audience has a positive and engaging experience. Stop worrying you will screw up, sound stupid or look bad so you can clear your head and shake the nerves.
The second strategy that was pivotal was having a clear understanding of the message that needs to be conveyed and the structure in which the message will be delivered.
Those are the basics, but then “Frippisms” can help you polish and engage your audience. Fripp offers a free report on the top presentation mistakes salespeople make on her website www.patriciafripp.com. Here are a few of the key elements from her message that can help you become a better speaker.
- Lose “fat” words. Those are the “stuff” that will leave a “bunch” of people confused because of the, “oh, you know,” the “thing” won’t be clear. And it’s not easy. Talking in vague terms is part of our culture, but from stage, it clutters your message and magnifies bad habits.
- There are no boring topics, just boring speakers. Incorporate impactful and relevant stories into all speeches to appeal to your audience’s emotions. Then provide enough facts so they can justify their actions with logic.
- Craft the opening and closing. These are the most memorable parts of the speech and the most difficult. Usually people are comfortable once they get rolling – it’s the speaker’s warm-up time that can be painful for the audience.
- Always have a premise for your speech. Although you may not say it specifically, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to communicate, who the audience is and why they should care. The statement is crafted first then you can easily add points and stories that support your premise.
For example, the premise for most of my speeches is “every professional service provider can access unlimited revenue growth by networking effectively.” The next 45 minutes is crafted to fill the “how-to” blanks.
Applying the same principle to sales presentations and company meetings can increase productivity and keep you on track. An example of one company’s sales meeting premise: “Every car dealer or real estate agent can generate new leads that represent the same demographics of current customers by using www.getpowerof10.com.”
Adapt it for your own circumstances and it will give you focus for crafting your meeting and your message.
Even if you’re still a little nervous, the above principles can ensure value for your audience.
The good news: speeches come to an end. Embrace the opportunity! It’s much less permanent than death.