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9 steps to public speaking success, part 1

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Did you know the average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death? And yet overcoming this fear can be the key to a long and successful career. 

In business, it’s essential to be able to get your point across. Whether you’re giving a formal presentation to a large audience or asking your boss for a promotion, speaking skills are essential to getting ahead in life.

Here are nine tips for overcoming your fear of public speaking:

1. Get organized: 

When you organize all your thoughts and materials, it helps you to become much more relaxed and calm. When you have clear, organized thoughts, it can greatly reduce your speaking anxiety because you can better focus on the task at hand: giving a great speech.

2. Practice and prepare extensively 

Nothing takes the place of practicing and preparing for your speech. Write out a script of your key points, but don’t speak from it word for word. Prepare for your speech so well that you could answer any possible question thrown at you.

3. Eliminate fear of rejection 

“What if my audience hates my speech? What if they boo me off the stage?” Try to eliminate your fear of rejection. The audience has come to hear you speak for a reason.

4. Focus on patterns 

When you speak, try to get into a rhythm or a flow. Keep you sentences short and to the point and repeat key points. A short pause between points can add anticipation to what you’re going to say next.

5. Watch yourself in the mirror 

Practice your speech in front of the mirror as if you were speaking directly to someone. Pay attention to:

  • Your facial expressions

  • Your gestures

  • Your body movements

  • How welcoming you appear

If you have gentle expressions and a calm demeanor when you speak, you’ll be more welcoming to your audience.

6. Record yourself and learn your voice

Record your speech on your phone or video camera. Then play it back and make notes on how you might improve. Some people do not like listening to the sound of their own voice on tape, so it’s important that you get used to your own voice and speaking style.

7. Work on your breathing 

When you focus on your breathing, your voice will have more resonance and you’ll relax. Breathe calmly and focus on getting into a rhythm.

8. Practice more 

When someone asks me how she can build effective communication skills and improve her public speaking, I quote writer Elbert Hubbard, who said, “The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.”

9. Practice for others 

There are plenty of people you can practice on. Be sure to tell them to be completely honest with you in their comments. Examples of those you could practice on:

  • Your significant other

  • Your friends

  • Your parents

Speaking directly to another person will help you relax and provide some feedback. If your guinea pig has questions about your speech, it’s likely that members of your audience will, too.

I have seen business people leapfrog over others in their careers by overcoming their fear of public speaking. The better you become at speaking in public, the farther you will go in your career. Write everything down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you too can banish your fear of public speaking.

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

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