Thu10302014

Business & Real Estate

Fear of public speaking haunts business leaders

Tyler was preparing for the speech of his life. This trade show, this product, this announcement, would make or break his career. Why did he spend the night before the presentation huddled in his living room, actually shaking and quivering with nausea over the coming hurdle?

The company speech coach had prepped him. He knew the arm movements and when to pause and when to smile. The speech writer for the company had revised his speech and even Tyler thought it was good. He still contemplated acquiring pneumonia before morning.

Why is public speaking still beating out death as the number one fear in the country? Why are company coaches still facing the overt and hidden resistance instead of being able to work on content or delivery techniques?

Clue One. Blocked Vision: You have not been able to visualize yourself as a success at this event. Try to burst through the fear drama with a mirage of you being successful! Whenever you can, in your own mind, practice a miraculous win on the podium.

Clue Two: History. You've never had a successful speech yet. Practice in small ways - your son's second grade class, not the first grade because they can't sit still and listen and you may take the shuffling too personally. Practice where ever you can. In church. In small meetings. In Toastmasters (The best bet for your money and time) In town meetings. At birthday parties.

Clue Three: The audience is not your enemy. See them, instead, as friends who desperately want your information or at least that they want to be entertained. They will put up with you even if you don't entertain or impart information, if you present just one memorable tidbit. It could be one statistic, one personal note, or one interesting or unique opinion.

Clue Four: Like What You Are Saying: When you can, talk about something you approve of, believe in, or want to happen. Get some passion about your subject. Find a reason - a good reason - be speaking about it!

Since I have personally delivered 1,500 speeches, from MIT to surgeons, from pre-schools to law schools. I can tell you that practice makes perfect. And perfect is only relative. I can tell you that the more you do, the more you .are. But it also helps to believe you can get something back from the presentation.

Does it really matter what you say?

In a one hour talk, only 50 percent will be really heard. That's 30 minutes. Only 50 percent of that will be really understood - That's 15 minutes. Only 50 percent of that will be really believed - That's 7.5 minutes. Only 50 percent of that will be really remembered - That's 3.75 minutes.

Of the 3.75 minutes, your appearance, your voice, and your non-verbal delivery will influence the memory positively or negatively. These facts are not meant to apply pressure. They are intended to remind you that your intentions, your presence and a few key points, maybe three or four bullet points, (3.75!) are all you need to worry about.

Jean Hollands is CEO of the Growth & Leadership Center in Mountain View.

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