Gerald R. Ford said If I went back to college again, Id concentrate on two areas: learning to write and learning to speak before an audience.
Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively. Its the number one skill thats guaranteed to position you head and shoulders above the competition, yet its frequently overlooked, according to female speaker, Patricia Fripp.
My own take on having the ability to speak well in public is that its probably the single most powerful thing you can learn to do that gives you the ammunition to say If I can do that, I can do anything.
If you’ve ever marvelled at the abilities of a great presenter, the clever use of words to draw pictures, the confidence and charisma that exudes from the platform and the awe in which they are held, you’ll agree with the above statements.
So why is it that when it comes to attending training courses, presentation skills are not the automatic first port of call? Could it be to do with that oft quoted (probably misquoted) statistic that speaking in public is feared more than death? Lets not go into an examination of quite how ridiculous that would be if it were true. After all, how many of you would really swap places with the guy in the coffin if you were asked to speak at a funeral?
Theres no doubt that public presenting can get the old palms sweating, but given the benefits youll get when you know you can do it well, it really shouldn’t stop you. Lets examine the causes of nerves so you lay your fears to rest and get this most important of abilities added to your arsenal of talents, shall we?
First, examine why youre nervous. Theres always a reason for nerves so examine what the reasons are so you can deal with the cause and go a long way to eliminating the symptom. Note that I say go a long way to eliminating, the chances are that youll always feel some nervousness which is when you need to remember that nerves are your friends because they keep your senses sharp & show that you want to do well.
Even seasoned performers suffer from stage fright, some had it so bad they could barely perform. Fortunately, the thought is usually worse than the task. Once you get started, youll often find that your nervousness will disappear. I liken it to knowing that youre about to tackle a drive round Londons Hyde Park Corner or Pariss Arc de Triomphe in rush hour. Thinking about it really freaks you out but when youre in the middle of it, youre too busy concentrating on not hitting anyone that its only afterwards you get to think Wow, I made it in one piece.
Some of the most common reasons Ive found for people suffering from nerves are these: -Worry about forgetting what youre going to say
-Worry that the audience will think youre a fraud
-Worry about saying the wrong thing and offending somebody
-Worry that someone will ask a question to which you dont know the answer
-Worry that youll get a dry mouth or get tongue tied
-Worry that youll finish too soon or run long
Some of the less common ones I’ve heard were Im worried in case theres a fire alarm halfway through my talk and Im worried that the hem on my trousers will unravel in front of everyone whilst Im speaking.
I could dismiss all these are silly or invalid and tell you that none of them will ever happen, but the fact is that they often will. (Yes, even the trouser hem things happened to me!). Looking down the list, you can see that theres a lot you can do to avoid these situations occurring: being well prepared, stating your qualifications in your introduction, knowing your subject matter inside and out, timing yourself several times during rehearsals, and so on (sorry, I dont have a magic bean to disable fire bells during speeches).
But so what if any of them still come to pass? Whats the worst that can happen? Well its not life or death, you know. You have to learn to keep your fears in perspective. And remember, the audience wants you to succeed. Nobody enjoys a bad speech.
Do what you can to be prepared and dont let fear of speaking stop you from gaining that most revered of all skills, the one that will impact every area of your personal and business life. Give yourself the very best opportunity of succeeding and youll find the rewards are massive.