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5 Tips to Ace Public Speaking, Even If You Absolutely Hate It

by Jasmyne Moody

For a chosen few, public speaking is easy. Their words flow freely without a stutter, they speak at the perfect volume, and they never forget their speech. For so many others, however, the prospect is terrifying.

Public speaking is the number one American phobia — so much so, in fact, that most of those who fear public speaking would rather die than have to do it. People fear rejection from the audience, choosing the wrong words, and looking out on a sea of eyes that may be judging.

But for entrepreneurs, public speaking may be a requirement. Candace Ledbetter, Founder of CNBetter Media and long-time public speaker and media trainer, notes that entrepreneurs have to face the facts. “At some point, to help amplify your brand and your company, you’re going to have to get out there and connect with people and audiences who are specifically interested in what you have to offer,” said Ledbetter.

If you’re a founder with a public speaking aversion, we feel your pain — but there’s a better strategy than picturing your audience naked to ace your first speaking gig. Follow Ledbetter’s tips to help you fake it ‘til you make it.

Confidence is Key

Something that people often forget is that if you’re the one giving the speech, you are the expert. There’s a reason you’ve been asked to speak, after all. “It’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re presented with an opportunity, but it wouldn’t have come your way if you weren’t qualified,” says Ledbetter. Though it may require a perspective shift, you have to make yourself believe that the audience wouldn’t be there if they didn’t believe in what you have to say.

So stick your chest out, raise your voice, and talk with your hands. Seriously, even Warren Buffett once had a crippling fear of public speaking. You can do it.

The mirror is your new best friend

We know it’s cliché, but we can’t stress the importance of practicing enough. “We’re our own worst critics anyway, so we’d be the only ones looking in the mirror saying ‘look, you suck’,” says Ledbetter about practicing. Nothing will take the place of rehearsal.

Get inspired

TED Talks should become your other friend right before a big speech. With public speaking phobias affecting nearly 25 percent of Americans, it’s hard to believe that everyone who gives a TED Talk was a born natural — but they’ve landed on one of the biggest speaking platforms in the world. Watch tempos, volume, slide and presentation flow, and take notes.

Use images

According to a study, 55 percent of the information we take in is visual. So visualize up your presentation — include photos, animation, even videos! Having lots of images in your slides forces you to talk during the speech, since you’ll need to explain why that visual is there and what it means. This tactic reduces the chance that your talk will be the downfall of many fearful speakers: reading off slides. It also gives the audience something to look at besides you.

Get interactive

You don’t have to be the only one doing the talking. Make your audience do the work too! Incorporate questions at the beginning of your speech to give you insight into your audience — have them stand up or raise their hands to direct questions like “who has been here before?” or “who knows nothing at all about this topic?” If you really want to kill it, you can use tools like SMSPoll or Poll Everywhere and put a live text poll into a PowerPoint. At the end, incorporate a Q&A if you can, to address audience questions you might not have covered in the speech. We promise the audience will love it (and you!) and before you know it, your allotted hour will have flown by.

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