Recently, I was asked to participate in a webinar about using the power of publicity to achieve your goals. One of the topics discussed was how to overcome the fear of being in the spotlight.

To tell the truth, at first the thought of public speaking terrified me, too. But then I realized that I had to overcome my fear for the sake of my business. My first tip: Start small. Give yourself a chance to build up confidence.

Here are a few more tips for tackling the challenge of public speaking:

  1. Know your stuff. You won’t feel comfortable speaking if you don’t thoroughly know your material. How do actors and Olympic athletes make their feats look so easy? They practice! That doesn’t mean memorizing a speech, which can kill your enthusiasm and spontaneity. Know your key talking points and the anecdotes you’ll use to illustrate them and plan smooth segues from one point to the next.
  2. Get energized. Positive energy is contagious. If you’re upbeat, excited and passionate about your message, chances are your audience will be, too. And you’ll be surprised by the positive cycle this can create: An enthusiastic audience can pump up your energy even more. Use hand gestures to illustrate points and smile, smile, smile.
  3. Make eye contact. Find friendly, receptive faces in the audience and speak to them. Making eye contact with individuals prevents you from staring off into the distance or reading from notes. It also makes you feel as if you’re having a conversation rather than speaking to a group. I’ve found that connecting visually with engaged audience members gives me little shots of confidence and propels me through my presentation.
  4. Look your best. When you look great, you feel great and that makes you stand taller and exude confidence. Speaking engagements aren’t the best place to break in a new outfit. (Who knows what wardrobe malfunctions might surprise you?) Instead wear clothing and shoes you feel good in and that are appropriate to the setting. Simple is fine, but you should look crisp and polished from head to toe.

Fear shouldn’t prevent you from stepping into the spotlight and getting the visibility you need to build your business.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry and the author of Celebritize Yourself. She is also the CEO of EMSI Public Relations. For more information go to www.emsincorporated.com.