It might sound like an obvious question but there are so many different forms of “public speaking”. And most of them instill dread into the prospective speaker.
Of course, there is the first thing that might have popped into your mind – speaking on a stage. This could be a keynote, a Ted Talk (more about that later) or a “speak to sell” situation. I’ll come back to those later.
Then there is speaking at a wedding or other family occasion. Giving a presentation at work. Presenting to a single client, or a board. Going for an interview. Speaking to camera – either your own or being interviewed on TV, or for a blog, podcast or Youtube.
Perhaps there’s a eulogy to give. Or a Facebook Live to do. You could be on Speakers Corner in London, or (heaven forbid) giving evidence in a courtroom. Or you could be doing a stand-up comedy sketch, or acting in a production.
According to Wikipedia, although there is evidence of public speech training in ancient Egypt, the first known piece on oratory, written over 2,000 years ago, came from ancient Greece. The Romans followed the Greeks in holding oratory skills in high regard.
But why are most people scared of public speaking?
Glossophobia (the fear of public speaking) is very common and mostly it stems from a fear of being judged. Of course, like any skill, if you are new to public speaking it can cause anxiety. I’m sure you felt anxious and excited the first time you got in a car as the ‘driver’.
But the fact of standing up – one to many – has a special kind of fear attached to it. Especially if the audience has a higher perceived status to it (interview board), or you are speaking about a new subject or idea. Or perhaps if you don’t have any training as a speaker.
How do you become more confident as a speaker?
Confidence in public speaking develops from a number of factors. Firstly – it is easier if you have a structure. If you know the flow of your talk ( leads to B, leads to C, leads to D) it helps. And if you have a structure you can apply it to any talk you do on any subject, and that makes it easier to remember where you are in your speech.
Like any other skill, the more you practice the more confident you become and so – even if it is massively out of your comfort zone to do it – volunteer to speak whenever you can.
Understanding that the audience is (probably) not there to judge you, but to learn something or be entertained or inspired, can help. People are not out to get you. In fact, in most cases, they are willing you on and grateful it is not them having to speak!
I have spoken hundreds, probably thousands of times now, all over the world at tiny events and massive ones, and everything in between.
The key is to speak from the heart, to speak about something you know well, and to think about the audience at all times. What do THEY need to hear – rather than what do you need to say. When you understand that your speech is not about you or for you – it is about and for your audience, then it is possible to overcome any stage fright you might have and deliver a great speech.
There are, of course, all sorts of techniques that you can learn, to help with “stage fright”, and this is something I will be talking more about in coming weeks. For example, rapid transformational therapy is something I sometimes use with my students, to help them pinpoint where their anxiety about speaking in public originated. Once you know where something started, you can reframe the experience so that it no longer holds the same (negative) power over you.
If you’d like to know more about public speaking – come to one of my events, or if you have a specific question about public speaking email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh – and if you are interested – I am hosting a TED Talk in December here in Yorkshire. If you would like more details about attending, sponsoring or how to take part and perhaps deliver a TED talk at the event – please get in touch ASAP