One of the questions people often ask me about public speaking and delivering presentations is, ‘Why?’
Why get up in front of an audience, sometimes filled with ‘important people’ you don’t know, or perhaps and maybe worse, friends and family, and possibly make a fool of yourself?
Why volunteer to deliver a presentation to bosses and coworkers? That activity usually puts an extreme amount of pressure, and a huge spotlight, on you!
Why accept an invitation to be on a ‘discussion panel’ where you will be sitting with people where your experience and expertise may be less than theirs and risk having what you said challenged in front of an audience?
Why offer to be the master of ceremonies for an event you know will be well attended and possibly have media coverage?
Why walk to a public microphone, and ask a question, in front of the entire audience, to someone who just delivered a presentation?
Why go to networking events, social functions, and seminars where you know someone will ask everyone to, “Please stand up and tell us who you are and what you do? Give us your elevator speech.”
We perceive really good speakers as experts. We like to work with experts. Experts command more money for their products, services, and expertise.
The research shows: “speaking opportunities are business, career, and leadership opportunities!”
People who take and make speaking opportunities:
- Grow their businesses.
- Advance their careers.
- Increase their leadership roles.
Let’s take a closer look at that statement. Entrepreneurs who speak to civic groups, at association meetings, and other events, present themselves as experts and leaders in their industry.
- Being ‘on the program’ and ‘at the lectern,’ impresses people.
- Delivering great presentations increases the credibility of the presenter and their company.
- Not only does this lead to new business, but it reinforces in clients’ minds, they made a good decision to work with that company.
Businesses, associations, and organizations like to hire and promote people who communicate well because:
- Those individuals, when speaking on behalf of their company, give audiences a favorable impression of themselves and the firm they work for.
- Favorable impressions lead to sales and grow revenues.
- Presentations are delivered internally, also.
- Management knows information will be presented to personnel in a professional manner that’s easily understood by all.
- Those coworkers will be inspired and, in many cases, emulate the skills of the person who presents well.
Leaders should be excellent communicators. Individuals with this skill are called upon more often than others to:
- Represent their employer at outside events.
- Speak at other meetings they attend.
- Lead internal gatherings.
- Take the platform to promote their ‘platform.’
I present this hypothesis whenever I speak, and it’s never been challenged. Most of you are thinking, “Of course not, what’s to challenge?”
Why then, do so many avoid speaking opportunities?
If you are one who doesn’t raise your hand when asked to take speaking opportunities, you have an answer. That response is probably, “The fear of public speaking.”
This fear, often listed as one of the greatest people have, holds many back from reaching their potential.
My research found it is an “equal opportunity fear” that doesn’t care about a person’s age, education, or occupation. I have coached people ranging from doctors to CEOs to a father of the bride-to-be. The thought of toasting the newlyweds started him having anxiety attacks the day his daughter got engaged!
Presentations are delivered all the time:
- Internally and externally.
- In front of large audiences, small ones, and one-on-one.
- Formal and informal. Most of them are underwhelming!
The ability to present confidently in front of an audience, even if one never does will improve their one-on-one communication. Everyone does that!
“The fear of public speaking!” is worth facing and lessening because the rewards will outweigh the pain.
Many conversations with coaching prospects begin with them saying something like: “I am sick and tired of people who don’t work as hard as I do, who don’t contribute as much to the company as I do; getting recognition, bonuses, and sometimes promotions because they are Speaking! They’re usually not very good, but they are doing it and I’m not. Can you help me?”
I vividly recall a client sitting in my office and saying, “I have lost promotional opportunities because I did’t take or make speaking opportunities.”
People having a “fear of public speaking” are not alone. Seventy-five percent of the population, to one degree or another, has it. There is even a word for it – Glossophobia. It derives from the Greek – glōssa meaning tongue, phobos – fear. The important thing to note is it is a ‘Word,’ not a disease, and it can be managed!
The first step is to acknowledge you have the fear. Find out why you have it. Then take steps to control it. Getting rid of the fear of public speaking is not the goal. The objective is to take that nervous energy and put it into your presentation! A presentation without fear is b-o-r-i-n-g!
Take this information to heart and develop a “signature presentation.” Then, take and make all the speaking opportunities you can!
Fred E. Miller is a speaker, a best selling author, and an international presentation coach. His books, “NO SWEAT Public Speaking!” and “NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!” are available on Amazon.com. His website, NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com, has hundreds of articles and videos to help you be a better public speaker.