Today’s rainmaking recommendation from expert and trainer, Jaimie Field, deals with a topic that is familiar to me – glossophobia, or the fear of standing up in front of a crowd. Is this something you suffer from? Read on…

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Does the thought of standing up in front of a crowd scare you to death?  Would you rather have a root canal? This is called glossophobia and I’ll tell you something you may not know – even some of the biggest stars get scared about going out on stage.

Now, I love having an audience.  I have ever since I can remember.  After my first career choice at the age of 6 was shot down (I wanted to be a professional tambourine player like Val from Josie and the Pussycats – the 1970s cartoon), I decided I wanted to be a musical theater star. So I attended a theater camp in upstate New York called Stagedoor Manor.  While there, I realized that compared to these amazingly talented kids, I was mediocre and unless Bob Fosse saw me walking down the street and decided he had to have me star in his new show, I was going to be a chorus girl for life.  Nothing wrong with that, but I wanted more. 
I asked myself a question:  What’s the equivalent to being in front of an audience in a theater?  The answer:  Being in front of a jury!  And, being the child, and grandchild, of lawyers, I wasn’t going into the profession blind.  And now you know the story of how I decided to become a lawyer at the age of 13.

But putting that digression aside, even though I have always loved being in front of an audience, this doesn’t mean I don’t get a twinge of stage fright right before I go on.  In fact, I am convinced that the day I walk onto a stage or in front of the podium to speak and I am not initially nervous is the day that I should give it up. You see, those nerves mean that you are interested in doing a good job. And when the nerves go away, then you are going to be rote and boring.

The reason why I am rambling on about this is because public speaking, giving seminars to your prospective ideal clients, or your referral sources, is one of the best ways marketing and business development tools you can have in your arsenal.

Public speaking allows you to showcase your knowledge and authority.  Great speakers enhance their reputations and credibility when they stand in front of an audience.  In addition, the people whom you are in front of are usually there voluntarily which means they have qualified themselves as your target market.

However, if you are one of those who would rather have a colonoscopy than stand in front of a bunch of strangers, what can you do?

Here are 7 tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

  1. Be prepared.  In fact, be over-prepared.  If you have ever watched a Ted talk do you notice that these people never use notes?  It’s because they know their topic backward and forward and backward again.  The more you are comfortable with your subject matter, the less nervous you will be
  2. Practice, practice, practice.  And then practice in front of an “audience”.  Ask your spouse, significant other, associate, partner, assistant, paralegal, a stranger off the street to come in and watch you and give you helpful feedback.
  3. Realize that you when you are speaking one-to-one you are engaging in public speaking.  Therefore, find one person in the audience to speak to and try to speak directly to him/her.
  4. Be authentic.  Yes, it’s a buzzword that is overused these days, but what I mean is that you need to be you on that stage.
  5. Be present.  Don’t worry about the audience reaction.  Just provide the most interesting information about the topic upon which you are speaking.  If you are you and enjoy your topic then people will be happy to listen.
  6. Join Toastmasters.  This is an organization that teaches you to speak extemporaneously in front of a group of people who are not allowed to judge you, only provide advice.
  7. Enjoy the moment.  After you have given your speech, regardless of how you think you did (which is always worse than everyone else thinks you did), pat yourself on the back and then schedule another one.

One final note to help you overcome your fear;  as mentioned above, usually when you are giving a speech or a seminar, the people who are there have chosen to attend.  They want to know about the topic you are presenting.  They want you to do well and keep them interested.  The audience is already on your side when they get there.  Take a deep breath and do your best.

The more you speak in public, the less nervous you will get.  But as I said before, if you stop being nervous altogether then find another topic or just stop presenting.  Those little butterflies you get when you step out in front of an audience means you care about your audience and your topic.  And THAT’S what people want to see.