How To Tame Speaking Butterflies

JoAnn Hines
 


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Sounds like dangerous work, doesn't it? Butterflies can be very perilous. Everyone has caught them at one point, but there must be a way to tame or even overcome them!

Studies demonstrate that glossophobia or fear of public speaking is the number one source of anxiety in the United States. That translates to more than just a few harmless butterflies. For the businessperson, in a small company or a large corporation, the ability to speak coherently and persuasively is a skill vital to one's success. Unfortunately, the fear of speaking in public holds many otherwise confident people back from realizing their potential.

A fear of public speaking can be a disaster for the sales person or anyone in fact, but not to worry. Speaking skills are easy to acquire once the fear is overcome, diffused or controlled. The trepidation that is associated with public speaking revolves around fear of the unknown, the fear of forgetting, the fear that there will be questions you can't answer and the fear of the heckler or disgruntled audience.

These 10 points will get you past those difficult moments when you next have to face the audience. Remember you have something important to say; otherwise you wouldn't be there. Think of your presentation as teaching. Your audience is there to learn from you and you are giving them something of value

1. Write your own introduction. Someone else is probably going to introduce you. Write your intro yourself, making it brief, pertinent, and emphasizing your credentials. This is also the place to inject something humorous to loosen up your audience.

2. Know your audience. Do a little background research. Know exactly who is going to be in the audience, why they are there, and why they invited you to speak. TIP: It’s always helpful to interject industry buzzwords appropriate to your audience.

3. Check out the speaking venues Go to the facility early to make sure you're comfortable in the surroundings. Check the microphone, lighting, audio/visual equipment, and any other factors that may affect your performance (especially the room temperature). Greet the audience as they arrive. This is a great way to build rapport and change strangers into acquaintances. It also allows you to get advance questions and feedback from the audience.

4. Start out strong. The first 30 seconds have the most impact. Don't waste these precious seconds with unimportant information. Come out with a startling statement, quote, or story that immediately engages the audience.

5. Limit your topics. If you're giving a half-hour speech, don't expect to tell the audience everything you know. Pick two or three important points. Embellish your points with story and examples.

6. Be careful with the jokes. Don't use a joke unless you are absolutely brilliant at delivering it. If you bomb, you’re going to lose some of the credibility you have. If you humor is your thing then intersperse it throughout the program. TIP: Funny elements can be a great segue in to the next component of your presentation. TIP: If you are really nervous you can make a joke about it.

7. Outline your information. You and your audience will remember your points better if you have a path for the topic. For example, start by saying, “Here are the five questions I'm asked most” or “Here are the five things you need to remember from my presentation. ” Then proceed and elaborate each one. Its helps to quantify the number of points you will be delivering.

8. Use handouts if needed. If your presentation involves statistics and analytical data, put them in a handout that the audience can refer to. Don't bore the audience by reciting numbers. TIP: Handouts are best given at the end that way the audience will be looking at you not the handout.

9. Don't read your speech. It’s the worst way to deliver a topic. Look frequently at the audience. Write down key points or statements so you can refer to them, but deliver the rest of the presentation spontaneously and make eye contact. Practice with a tape recorder or in front of friends and family. After every point, ask yourself, “Who cares?” If the answer is “No one, ” then omit that sentence. TIP: This is not just an old adage; it is true . . . practice, practice, practice!

10. End strong. Write a memorable closing statement or use a vivid example. Then, memorize it, so no matter what distractions may occur you can always “deliver ” At the end, deliver your closing line directly to the audience, and then accept their applause.

Finally have a back up plan. Have notes if the projector doesn't work. Plan additional ways to engage the audience if your content isn't grabbing them. Relax; enjoy the experience and happy speaking.

Tips for before beginning the program:

Check makeup and use the rest room.

Wear an outfit you have worn before. Don't wear something brand new that you may feel uncomfortable in. Don’t wear anything that requires adjusting like tight skirts or pants, low cut necklines, etc.

If you always wear pants, don't switch to a skirt just because you are speaking to a male audience, Instead brighten the outfit up with an attractive pin colored blouse or chic jewelry. Stay away from bracelets that jangle.

Scarves are bad unless you always wear one and have learned not to fiddle with it.

It’s OK to wear red. In fact studies show it is a color men prefer for women in the business environment.

Look at something blue for 30 seconds before you take the podium. It has a calming effect.

Run your fingertips lightly up and down your arm for several seconds it reduces the stress hormones.

Have someone you know and trust in the front of the audience. Focus on that person until you are over the jitters that will go away after you get started.

Always have a glass (no ice) of water at the podium or readily accessible.

Don't drink hot or cold beverages before speaking.

Adjust the mike to your height if possible before speaking.

If it’s a luncheon program eat sparingly (so you stomach doesn't growl) till the presentation is over.

If your hands are shaking, grasp (don’t clench) the sides of the podium or lectern.

Don't cross your arms (negative body language).

Learn to do something with your hands. Use them to express a point or use them as a visual aid to point to the screen.

Move around the room. Make sure you have a mike (lavaliere) that allows for movement.

Act confident and you will feel confident.

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