When I was a budding entrepreneur, I had to accept the fact that I’d have to wrestle a few alligators if I wanted my business to make it. That meant buckling down, taking a lot of deep breaths, and doing the thing that made my stomach churn most of all—public speaking.
Public speaking wasn’t just something that I disliked. It was my worst fear. I guess you could say I had glossophobia, also known as a fear of public speaking. And you know what my relationship with public speaking is now?
It’s easy for me. I’m calm, cool, and collected when I speak in front of people. So, how did I do it?
Don’t scoff at public speaking in business—you need it
I don’t need public speaking skills in business. I’m an entrepreneur, not a life coach!
Does this sound like something you’d say? For a time, it sure was the excuse I made to get out of public speaking when I started my business. But then I learned the hard truth that, no matter what your business is, you need public speaking.
Public speaking is a standard in business. You may need to hone your public speaking skills to:
- Seek financing for small business from investors or lenders
- Lead and inspire your employees
- Talk about your business at a trade show or conference
Imagine being unable to talk in front of potential business investors. Or skipping staff meetings because you’re nervous to speak in front of your team. Or passing on incredible opportunities to get your business name out there because you don’t want to present at a conference.
If you passed on every public speaking opportunity, your business would be the one taking the hit. Your business needs you to capitalize on public speaking for brand-building, business growth and development, employee retention, and financing.
So, are you ready to stop saying no to public speaking and say yes to facing your fears?
4 Public speaking tips to get you started
Say it with me: If I can start my own business, I can speak publicly for the good of my business! Were you with me?
Whether you’re with me or not, you have to have some interest in embracing your public speaking fears (or you wouldn’t be reading what I have to say about it).
Use the four tips below to kickstart public speaking for business.
1. Stretch yourself regularly
Do you stretch yourself as an entrepreneur? Although physical stretching is important, it’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Little by little, you should stretch yourself so you become more comfortable doing things you wouldn’t normally do. That way, you can build up to the big stretching necessary for public speaking.
I was stretched in the early days of my business. I hated writing and was deathly afraid of public speaking. But I had to do some weekly stretching so my business wouldn’t fail. So, what did I do? I forced myself to write a 20-page newsletter. Every. Single. Week.
That newsletter was one of the first stretches I had to do. I spent 7-10 hours every Sunday writing it for eight years. Sounds pretty intense, right? But to me, it was just practicing for the big stretch.
After being an entrepreneur for a bit and doing some regular stretching, my worst fear came to life. I had to do three solid days of public speaking. I had no training, no experience, and no skills. I was petrified.
Thankfully, I had been stretching myself. Every action I took that made me get out of my comfort zone had been building me up to handle that public speaking moment.
What happened, you ask? I put myself out there. I walked through it. Did I sweat? Yes. Was it nerve-racking? Yes. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes!
2. Prepare before you’re in the spotlight
Sure, being willing to stretch myself was a big reason I was able to speak in public and be the master of ceremonies for that first three-day convention. But, it wasn’t the only reason.
My first major public speaking adventure was also a success because I was prepared.
Since that first time, I’ve hosted 60-70 more conventions. And before each one, you better believe I prepared.
How do you prepare for something that instills so much fear and anxiety in you each time you think about it?
There are a number of things you can (and should) do to prepare before confronting your big public speaking fear.
Certainly, you will need to practice. A lot. Otherwise, you may be prone to making some common mistakes. Get out those jitters by mapping out what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Heck, you should internalize your speech so you can get comfortable enough to go rogue.
But if you want to give a good talk, there’s more to do than practice it. You will also need to study the ways of successful speakers and talk to people who have been through it. Who wouldn’t want some inspiration from the pros? Watch some YouTube videos and talk to your business mentors to get the tricks of the trade.
Something else I cannot stress enough is getting to know your audience. Without knowing your audience, your speech may fall flat. And if the crowd isn’t digging what you have to say, you’ll probably get more nervous.
3. Put your all into the delivery
If you’re scared of public speaking, you may panic when you’re up there in front of five, 50, or 500 people. But once you capture your crowd’s attention and start raking in the compliments, you may come to embrace those nerves.
To connect with your audience, you need to ace the delivery.
According to one study, the most important part of a speech isn’t the content—it’s the speaker’s delivery. While only 7% of a good speech depends on the content, 38% depends on the speaker’s voice, and a whopping 55% rides on their non-verbal communication.
So if you want to nail your speech, put your all into the delivery. You can do that by:
- Taking deep breaths
- Speaking slowly
- Making eye contact
- Talking like a person, not a robot
After finally putting myself out there, I started receiving compliments that I’m good at public speaking. Who knew?
If an average guy like me can kick my fear to the curb and focus on making sure my talks are a success, you can, too.
4. Be yourself
Again, you don’t want to be a robot when you speak in front of an audience. You want to be your genuine self.
Go ahead, show off what you know. Look at it as an opportunity to impart your wisdom on others. Use your passion to drive your speech and help you come off as authentic.
If you crack jokes when you talk, go ahead and put some in there. If you use your hands when you talk, do it. If you laugh it off when you trip over your words in everyday conversation, go for it. You get the picture.
Be yourself when you speak publicly and you might start embracing it instead of shying away from it.