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Speakers’ Top 3 Fears… and How to Prevent Them!

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Avoid the worst-feared pitfalls of public speaking.

images-3Will you be giving a presentation or seminar soon? Many professionals choke up when they begin picturing all that “could go wrong!”

To avoid the worst-feared pitfalls of public speaking, you must start with oxygen. Fritz Perls said, “Fear is excitement without the breath.” Breathe! Then, accept and enjoy the “rush” you get before presenting, not as fear, but as motivating and sustaining energy.

How to Prevent the Worst!

Here are the three typical concerns that high-ranking executives have shared with me, with “fail-safe” solutions:

What happens if I…

1. …“Blank out?”

“Blanking out,” or suddenly forgetting what one is going to say, is perhaps the speaker’s worst fear. Blanking out is caused by

  • lack of enough oxygen to the brain,
  • not knowing your stuff, and
  • too much focus on performance (focus on me) instead of connection (focus on them.)

To prevent “blanking out,” you must relax. You can only relax by getting oxygen zipping through your body. If you’re relaxed throughout the presentation, you’ll be able to handle small lapses in memory while still making the points you need.Obviously, you need to really know your stuff to be able to handle small lapses in memory. Don’t go into any speaking situation unprepared.

Right before getting to the podium or front of the room, remember to think of the presentation as an opportunity to build relationships with those in the audience, not as a performance. Focus on connecting, not on yourself.

2. …Lose my place and look stupid?

You’ll only feel comfortable (and look natural) if you practice, practice, practice. Practice at home until you can look UP from your notes while dealing with distractions. Practice talking to yourself in front of the mirror. Encourage your spouse, kids and dogs to make a ruckus while you maintain your focus.

Make notes and don’t be afraid to hold onto them. Capture the highlights of each section of your speech in 1-5 words. Don’t write it out like a script, and don’t try to memorize it word–for-word. Consider your notes your “safety net.” Once you establish a relationship with your audience, you’ll be surprised how little you actually use them—so long as you’ve practiced.

3. …Screw up my PowerPoint or my microphone or my overhead projector or…

Fumbling with mechanics will not only undermine your confidence, it will reduce your image as an expert. The only way to prevent mechanical problems is to practice in the room you’ll be presenting in, on the equipment you’ll be using. Never attempt PowerPoint in an untested environment. Because not all computers and projectors are compatible, especially where cables are concerned, it’s best to use your own computer and projector. Be familiar with all the computer settings you’ll need.

Familiarize yourself with the on-off and volume switches of every machine you will use (including your microphone) before you begin, even if that means coming in early that morning or even the previous night. Ensure you know how to deal with the remote for lights, video, screen and everything else that plays a part in your presentation.

Two Final Tips to Ensure Success

Center yourself. This is not an “New-Age-style” recommendation. Centering yourself means becoming aware of your body (getting out of your head) and assuming a strong, focused stance. Feel your weight in your feet so that your head doesn’t get light. Maintain slightly bouncy knees. Keep your sternum (breastbone) up so that your chest opens. Shake your hands to release energy. Get that oxygen flowing!

Relax and Have Fun. Acknowledge that you’re excited and allow yourself to feel that way. Remind yourself you know your stuff. You’re going to enjoy the connections you make with the audience and let your expertise shine.

If you follow these tips, your audience will be engaged, connected and impressed—and you’ll actually enjoy the experience of speaking in public.

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