Don Hutson is a world class public speaker and past President of the National Speakers Association. His decades of experience made him the perfect person to sit down and discuss the art of public speaking.
Over ten years ago, I found myself in a class for leaders and managers. After building rapport and working to create a safe environment of trust, the class facilitator decided to have us go around the room and share our insecurities and fears. The coach was specifically homing in on our weaknesses and asking for us to be transparent with others in the room.
As we worked around a small circle, one woman was visibly nervous. When it was her turn, it was as if someone flipped a switch and turned her red. She stumbled over her words as she explained how fearful she was to speak in public. Even in a safe situation with supportive friends, she still was nervous to share. We learned that she even had nightmares where she was in front of a room, perched behind a podium, and she misplaced her notes and looked out at a sea of unforgiving faces. Another attendee encouraged her and told her that she was better off avoiding these events so she didn’t trigger her fears.
The fear of public speaking grips many people who avoid it at all costs.
I want to share why this “avoidance thinking” is toxic to aspiring leaders.
“Fear the fear of public speaking and do it anyway.” –Arvee Robinson
Recently, I spoke to my local chapter of Toastmasters and shared 7 reasons why learning to speak in public is vitally important.
1. Overcome your fear.
There’s enormous power in mastering and overcoming a fear, whatever it is. I can recall the smile on a new rock climber’s face when he conquered his fear. “I have never felt so alive and free,” he said to me soon after completing his climb. That same feeling happens if you overcome a fear of public speaking, and – at least to me – it’s a whole lot easier than climbing a mountain.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, and to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill
When you not only are able to overcome your fear but also become proficient at it, then your confidence soars. Confidence is often more compelling than competence. I don’t know what happened to the nervous woman after the class ended, but during the few days of our classes, she saw remarkable improvement. You could feel her confidence building.
“Competence without confidence just doesn’t cut it.” –Derek Lewis
Great public speakers attract opportunities. Why? Speaking makes you visible. You’re in front of the room, so that’s rather obvious. But the fact is that your credibility is enhanced. You become an expert.
“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach, just get them to fly in formation.” –Rob Gilbert
Leadership is all about influence, about persuasion, about taking people from one point and moving them to another. Speaking is part of that process of persuasion and often the most powerful part. Anything that helps increase your influence is generally a good move.
“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a guest post by Steve Brown and London Speaker Bureau. Steve’s writing on various sites focuses on business related topics. Steve reminds us of a critical component of confident public speaking.
Public speaking remains one of the biggest fears for people around the world; even some of the greatest public speakers admit to stage fright before giving a talk. There is plenty of information available on how to overcome these nerves: to practice, evaluate and fully know your material. However, there is one thing which is frequently overlooked and yet can make a powerful difference to any speech.
“When you own your own breath, nobody can steal your peace.” -Unknown
That thing is breathing. By simply controlling your breathing, you will be better able to project your voice and people will hear you. People respond to confident, positive voices and will often not register someone who is speaking nervously. To become a great speaker, follow these breathing tips:
Posture matters the most when speaking in front of an audience
Standing correctly allows your lungs to fill with air and makes you look taller and more confident. To do this, stand with your feet apart in line with your shoulders, put your shoulders back, your ribcage in and your arms by your side.
Breathe deeply to relax your voice and calm your nerves
Now that your lungs are able to be filled with air, you will need to take a deep breath. You can see the affect of this by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly button. Concentrate on your stomach moving, not your chest. Exhale and repeat until you are comfortable doing this all the time.
“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” -Dionysius