Is speaking scarier than dying?

Not according to this list, but that one tells a different story. Either way, we can probably agree that there is something gut-churning about public speaking. And yet, we all have to do it in our careers, some more than others. As always, the first step in dealing with a problem is….

  • To admit that it exists. Anxiety is real and it is natural, but it does not have to be paralyzing. Your greatest allies are time and repetition. James Dyson built more than 5,000 vacuum cleaner prototypes before one was marketable. After acknowledging anxiety, you have to….
  • ….face it. And this may mean the occasional failure but very few people have succeeded without failing. Colonel Sanders peddled his 11 secret herbs and spices to more than 1,000 places before one bit on the combination. And once you have done these two things…..
  • ….you overcome it. Elvis was fired after a single performance at the Grand Old Opry and told to drive a truck instead.

Those three steps presume that you will speak regularly. Here are three other things to keep in mind for the here and now:

  • The audience wants you to succeed. People don’t show up heckle speakers so keep in mind that you are in a supportive environment.
  • You are the master of the domain. You are the subject-matter expert: you control the content, the flow of the presentation, how questions are handled, etc.
  • After practicing, practice some more.

Finally, here are major considerations as you put the speech together:

  1. Words matter. A recent mailer promised “the first step toward a debt-free life.” Unless the $35,000 figure being dangled is a gift, I have yet to figure out how more debt equals less debt.
  2. Audiences matter. During the holidays, a radio ad aimed at men promised romantic delights if only guys would buy hoodie-footie pajamas for the women in their lives. Really? Who is the woman who uses “I am freezing to death” as a come on line?
  3. Stories matter. In the 1940s, it was taboo for women to smoke in public. But the owner of Chesterfield cigarettes saw a market being wasted and the ensuing PR campaign painted cigarettes as ‘torches of freedom’ with the message of women being emancipated from a discriminatory society.

Take the parts that are useful and go be memorable. For the right reasons.


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