No, this isn’t a thriller novel or a horror movie, nor am I near a burning building. This week’s blog post is me pushing (shoving, really) you off a small ledge (cliff). When I tell people that I’m a presentations and public speaking coach I usually get one of two responses: either they say “Oh, I’m comfortable with public speaking, I don’t need any help” (and after watching them speak I think Well, an hour with me wouldn’t hurt…), or they say “I hate public speaking! I definitely need your help, but I’ll never put myself in a position to use your services because I stay as far away from public speaking as I can!” This post is dedicated to the latter type of person, perhaps I’ll write one for the former in due time.
The fear of public speaking stems from a fear of rejection. We’re afraid that our peers won’t accept us for what we have to say, we’re afraid we won’t have answers to the audience’s questions, we’re afraid that we’ll inadvertently say something wrong and be ridiculed for it. All of these fears are legitimate and are all things to be concerned about, but are they really that bad? And are they really things you haven’t already handled? Let’s look at each of the above fears one-by-one:
My peers won’t accept me for what I have to say. Yeah, and? Have you never disagreed with someone before? Of course you have! We disagree with people on a daily basis, but that doesn’t stop us from having conversations. Unless you stand before an audience and talk about your extreme right- or left-wing opinions on an extremely controversial topic (and please don’t!), chances are good that even if the audience doesn’t agree with every word that comes out of your mouth, at the end of the day they’ll still agree with your overall message.
I won’t have answers to the audience’s questions. You can’t always have all the answers to every question you’re ever asked – you’re not Google! One of the best things you can do when presenting is to admit that you’re unsure of something. This lets the audience know that you’re human, which helps them relate to you and be much more forgiving. You can even go that extra mile and say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.” And then do so.
I’ll inadvertently say something wrong and be ridiculed for it. We’ve all seen that happen, or maybe it’s even happened to us! Something comes out wrong, letters or words get crossed, and we have an oops! moment. Laugh it off, correct yourself, and move on. It’s really not as big a deal as it feels.
If you’re still unsure about public speaking, it’s time to face your fears. The only way to become a more confident public speaker is to do it more frequently. To those of you who shy away from presentations, I say RUN! Run toward those opportunities, not away from them! But you don’t have to run alone. Contact me for a consult and let me help you learn to love public speaking.
Because after all, a presentation is simply a large conversation.