Everyone has fears. Some people are afraid of spiders (arachnophobia), many are terrified of snakes (ophidiophobia), and a notable number are scared of flying (aerophobia). However, one fear that reportedly towers above them all is fear of public speaking or glossophobia. Estimates suggest that as much as 75% of the population experience this potentially debilitating condition. However, experienced motivational public speaker, author, and entrepreneur Michael Lehrke reveals a few of the top ways to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Michael Lehrke Begins with Preparation
Michael Lehrke starts out by highlighting the importance of preparation and says “few things will help ease speaking anxiety more than knowing your material.” Lehrke continues with “when the speaker is familiar and comfortable with the material, they can confidently present without worrying about getting lost. It also empowers the speaker to focus more on connecting with their audience.” And to become as familiar as possible with the material, it’s imperative to practice.
It’s not, however, a good idea to try to remember or recite the speech word for word. Mr. Lehrke explains “the best public speakers know their material via prompts on subtopics, key points, and examples to cover.” By approaching the material this way, the speaker is more likely to move to the next point if they ever get lost. Mike does caution against bullets and warns against one common pitfall of business presentations. He explains, “get rid of PowerPoint presentations and ensure the material being discussed is the central point. In the event the speaker does use PowerPoint, it’s best to utilize visuals that swiftly communicate the central message.”
To paraphrase: do not write your speech on a PowerPoint and read from that for your presentation.
Make a Friend. Speak to the Friend.
So, how does one practice effectively? Michael Lehrke suggests finding willing friends to present to, and then following up each practice session by asking this friend for feedback. Were there parts of the presentation that were unclear? Which parts of the presentation did your practice audience like? Did the presentation feel too long, or too short?
Lehrke points out, “On the day of the presentation, it’s often helpful to find a friend or acquaintance in the audience.” If possible, Michael Lehrke suggests the speaker should introduce themselves to a few people who will be seated in the front row. During the presentation, the speaker can ease their anxiety and nerves by simply talking to these friendly faces.
Last, Mr. Lehrke says it’s best to engage the audience by making the presentation more of two-way interaction with questions. He says, “creating a monologue burdens the speaker with all tasks, including entertaining and informing the audience. However, when the speaker asks the audience questions, it ensures they are engaged while reducing potential boredom. In my presentations, I cheat a little. I tell the audience that prizes will be given to the audience members with the best questions and that I get to decide what the best questions are. Candy is an excellent prize in this case, but you can get creative.”