As a small business owner, there are going to be times where you will be called upon to speak in front of a live audience. Whether it be when you are trying to raise working capitol and need to pitch some investors, or if you are asked to give a presentation at a business conference in front of your peers, you are going to need to hone your public speaking skills if you expect to succeed.
Sadly, many entrepreneurs will try to avoid this at all costs because they are deathly afraid of getting up in front of people that they do not know.Fear or anxiety when giving a presentation or carrying out some form of public speaking is felt by many people, and can result in higher stress levels as well as possibly damaging a business reputation if a poor presentation is given. And while, sadly, not every speaking opportunity can be delegated to someone like a football motivational speaker, there are a number of simple ways in which any fear can be overcome, resulting in a good performance.
The Qualities of a Good Public Speaker
Firstly, in order to overcome any anxieties or phobias of public speaking, the qualities of a good public speaker must be ascertained. We spoke with Alex Miller who is the editor of Keynote Speaker, an online magazine dedicated to providing resources for public speaking, and here is what he had to say:
- Knowing Audience Needs: Being aware of the requirements and needs of the audience is vital to ensuring that a relevant and captivating presentation is given.
- Practice: Regular and repeated rehearsals of any presentation will allow mistakes to be rectified and changes to be made in good time.
- Dress: Appropriate dress is necessary for the environment in which the presentation will be given.
- Confidence: An aura of confidence both in the material and the abilities of the speaker will instill a similar level of confidence in the audience.
- Calm: A good public speaker will appear calm yet enthusiastic, relaxed yet passionate.
- Inflections: Instead of a monotonous drone, a good public speaker will vary the tone and pitch of his or her voice to keep audiences riveted.
- Body Language: Standing and walking, as well as hand gestures, are a staple attribute of a good orator.
- Visual Aids: Any visual aids must be simple and interesting, with cluttered and boring slides being avoided at all costs.
- Pace and Volume: A good public speaker will avoid giving presentations at breakneck speed, or incredibly slowly, instead speaking at a volume whereby the person furthest away can hear comfortably at a regular speed.
- Eye Contact: The maintenance of short periods of eye contact with each member of the audience will radiate a sense of inclusion and keep listeners focused.
All of these presentation skills require practice in order to hone them into characteristics that can be used to good effect. Unfortunately, many feel unable to meet these standards due to fears and phobias. These can, however, be overcome.
How to Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking
Giving a presentation can be a daunting task, with an audience numbering from a few to a few hundred focusing solely on one person. This often instills fear into the speaker, who then conveys the same anxieties to his or her audience, resulting in an unconvincing and disappointing presentation.
“One of the most critical factors in delivering a great speech is confidence” says John Rogan of Motivational Speaker. “When you get up in front of a group of people, the first thing they are going to asses is your body language and facial expressions. If you are not exuding confidence, they won’t trust you.”
There are a number of ways in which a phobia of public speaking can be overcome.
- Know the Material: Thorough preparation is vital to breeding confidence in self and the content of the presentation.
- Start Small: For those new to or fearful of public speaking, starting out by giving presentations to small groups of people may instill the confidence required for giving a presentation to larger audiences.
- Do Not Try to be Perfect: The source of many anxieties is the fear of making mistakes, and subsequently looking foolish. Everybody is fallible; if a mistake is made, correct it and move on; within a couple of minutes it will have been forgotten.
- Positive Visualization: To reduce pre-presentation stress, the public speaker should endeavor to think of and envisage a positive outcome to the public speaking duty, thus increasing self-esteem.
- Engage the Audience: As well as providing audience participation and therefore increased attentiveness, speaking to and receiving questions from the audience will give a nervous speaker time to organize his or her thoughts.
- Assume Friendliness: A nervous public speaker should recognize that an audience has not attended the presentation to pick fault or to mock; instead, they have attended because they are interested in the subject matter.
- Rest: Having a good night’s sleep before the presentation and having a clear calendar to reduce stress will ensure calm and relaxation on the day.
- Breathe Deeply: This will relax chest muscles and increase blood oxygen levels, heightening alertness.
- Appearance: A public speaker should endeavor to look as smart as possible; if he or she looks good, then confidence will follow.
Public speaking does not have to be the source of anxieties or fears; instead, it can be the opportunity to display skills and enhance reputation. Good preparation is key to delivering the perfect presentation.