You know all the details and intricacies of your business, you’re great with numbers, even better with people, but something just terrifies you when trying to sell yourself and your service. Public speaking.
No, you don’t have a business that requires you to stand at the podium in front of thousands of convention goers or lecture a rapt seminar audience. Sometimes your audience is less than 10 people, maybe it’s no more than two or three in a small makeshift conference room. The fear is there, nevertheless, causing your throat to dry up, your palms to sweat and your head to spin. Well, at least you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
Crossing the Great Divide
Many enterprising owners and executives possess outstanding business skills, but lack confidence in their ability to master words and phrasing in front of strangers or potential customers. The fact is, something as simple as a casual conversation at a business lunch can go much smoother if you collect your thoughts, enunciate well and present your case with poise and assurance.
So how do you avoid that sudden panic when you feel your control slipping away and the people in the room suddenly appear, in your mind, to be judgmental strangers? Take heart, there’s no need to be so fearful if you follow a few simple, basic rules.
A well-known consultant, who is also an eloquent speaker, suggests that everyone break the ice first, whether talking to a group of 100 or more, leading a business workshop of a half-dozen or merely speaking across the table in a one-on-one conversation. This can be achieved with a short, interesting personal interest story, a tasteful joke that is related to your topic or just a few sincere questions directed at the person across from you.
When you are ready to approach the meat of the matter, it’s important to open with a message, not just a topic. Think about what you want the final outcome to be and figure out how to most passionately and clearly present your case so that your audience, whether one or 100, can hang onto something of substance. This message should be focused on whatever it is you want the listener to consider at the conclusion of your presentation.
Make It Genuine
Keeping it real is vital, so don’t try to memorize what you want to say. Even if it’s a formal speech, don’t concentrate so much on every word as on the content of your essential thoughts. Often, it’s better to take good notes that you can refer to throughout and put into your own words. If note cards would be clumsy in a more casual setting with just a few people, at least jot down some of the key points that you want to make.
One polished speaker who has mesmerized audiences around the globe prefers to record himself as he speaks extemporaneously. Then he goes back and listens to his speech and develops his notes from there. The impact of this is that he’s less constrained by the written word, and his presentation ultimately becomes more genuine and natural. This is also an effective way to practice your overall delivery.
One of the most important components of a convincing, persuasive speech is an authentic belief in what you’re saying. If you truly feel passionate about your message, then you will gain confidence and it will be evident in your words. This is a great way to sell yourself first and let the rest follow. In order to do this well, speech experts preach the virtues of being yourself. In other words, don’t act a certain part or try to be somebody you’re not.
In that same vein, a good speech is one that is conversational in tone, rather than stilted or theatrical. One way to maintain that tone is, while you’re delivering your talk, pretend that you’re conversing to a room full of your closest friends. At the same time, never lose awareness of who your audience is. If you’ve done your homework, you will be able to craft your message accordingly. And when you give them something of value, even if you stumble over a word now and then, their overall impression will be highly positive.
Whatever the environment, however, remember that less is often more. Your message should be concise and to the point, never rambling or confusing. That doesn’t mean you can’t break away every now and then to offer an anecdote or a topical aside, but just make sure that these little incidentals are related in some traceable way to your theme. In short, use only information that is necessary to communicate your ideas.
The Art of Preparation
Fundamental to any good speech, presentation or business conversation is adequate preparation. Even if you just plan to address two of your office staff members, think about what you’re going to say and prepare for it so there are no missteps or miscommunications. If you go into these kinds of situations with agood grasp of your message and your tone, then your confidence level will soar and you will come across as strong and decisive.
Once you have gone through these different routines several times, you will become increasingly comfortable with your ability to relay your thoughts to others. And fear of speaking may soon be nothing more than a distant phobia from the past.