6 Reassuring Truths About Public Speaking

Guest post by Allison Shapira:
Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking,
I’m betting you still get butterflies in your stomach before you speak. As a
public speaking coach for over 15 years, I’ve seen it up-close: most people get nervous before a speech,
presentation, or important meeting.
                                               
Yet the fact remains: whether you have a
formal leadership role such as CEO or you are a young professional looking to
move into leadership, public speaking skills are critical. No matter what you
do, or what stage you are at in your career: you
have something powerful to say, you have a right to say it, and you want to be
able to say it with clarity and authority.
The good news is, you can. Simply recalling
these 6 reassuring truths about public speaking will help you speak with
confidence and authenticity, no matter your title. I discuss these in more
depth in my new book, Speak With Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence
Others
:
Public
speaking is a skill, not a talent.
You don’t have to
be born with it; I truly believe that each one of us can be a powerful public
speaker with practice and feedback. The more you use this skill and the more
you focus on making progress, the better you become. Read books on the subject,
join a Toastmasters club to build those skills, or recommend your organization
bring in a public speaking expert to design a communication training program.
Public
speaking is something we do every single day.
From
phone calls to webinars, presentations to meetings to town halls, we have daily
opportunities to speak in public. It can happen anywhere in the world, at every
stage in our career, no matter our background. Each day, look at your calendar
and determine where you want to have an impact in your communication. Prepare a
few points in advance of each meeting to help you speak concisely and
thoughtfully. Practice out loud a few times to make sure your words are genuine
and conversational.
We all
get nervous.
If you feel nervous before a
presentation, remember that you are not alone. The fear of public speaking is
universal, and most people will sympathize with you. Most of the time, everyone
in the audience wants you to do well. Take the time to breathe deeply before
your presentation and remind yourself why you truly care about your subject.
Remind yourself of the impact of your words on others; that will center you and
fill you with purpose.
It’s
about being authentic, not perfect.
Nobody wants to
hear a perfect speech or presentation; they want to feel that the speaker is
authentic and genuinely cares about their subject. Forget the need to be
perfect and you’ll reduce a lot of your stress. This is not an excuse to just
wing it – you still need to prepare and practice – but don’t get caught up in
endless revisions of a speech. If you know your subject and care about your
audience, you will inspire your audience.
It’s
about connecting with your audience and building trust.
Giving a speech or presentation is an opportunity to build a
relationship of trust with your audience, whether it’s one person or a thousand
people. By making eye contact with your audience and taking the time to engage
with them instead of just talking at
them, your message will connect with them on a personal level and you will
create more buy-in around your ideas.
It’s
about exercising leadership with your voice.
Every
time you speak, your words have an impact on others. Recognize the incredible
power of the spoken word to change the way people think, feel, or act, and be
intentional about how you plan to responsibly
use that power. It’s not just about giving the speech and going home; it’s
about using your words to mobilize others to take action, whether it’s forming
a new employee network in your organization or recommending a new strategic
course for your company. Take action based on your words.
Next time you’re preparing to speak — at a
board meeting, a community function, even in a small group of a few peers —
think back to these truths. They’ll remind you of the little things that can
get lost in a flurry of public speaking anxiety. They’ll help you become a
better communicator and have a powerful and positive impact on the world around
you.
Allison Shapira is author of
Speak With Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence Others
. CEO and
founder Global Public Speaking, LLC, Allison was trained as an opera singer and
teaches public speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School.