What everyone hates and fears about Public Speaking
I’ve spent the last two years asking hundreds of people what they dislike or find difficult about Public Speaking and Presenting — this is what they told me…
The summer of 2018 was busy — I founded the Malmesbury Speakers Academy and started running Public Speaking and Presentation Skills courses. I then went on to be a finalist in the Professional Speaking Association’s Speaker Factor competition.
Since then hundreds of people have attended my webinars, online courses, public classes and corporate training events.
At the start of every course or event I asked people:
· Why did you come today?
· What do you hope to learn?
The interesting thing is — across all those hundreds of people and dozens and dozens of events, there were really only three answers that people gave. Some only gave one of the answers, some gave two or three. This is what they said:
- I want to feel less anxious and stressed
- I want to know how to write and structure my talk
- I want to be more influential and move the audience to take action
The first one is probably no surprise — after all the fear of public speaking is the world’s #1 social anxiety disorder. Some studies estimate up to 75% of people suffer at some point in their lives.
People who fall into the second category — wanting help to write and structure the talk — tend to be more confident speakers who are keen to be more effective whenever they stand up and speak. They want to express their ideas clearly, so the audience can understand. I also found that they want to be interesting and entertaining in their delivery.
Speakers who want to be more influential are those who are focused on the reason for their presentation. They want to change people’s minds, they want to sell a product or service or convince the audience to take action. This is the ultimate aim of any talk or presentation. Every time we stand up and speak we are selling something. It might be a product, a service or an idea — but we are selling something. We can often forget that the ideas we present in our talks have to be ‘sold’ to the audience — facts alone will not convince people to change their behaviour.
Over half the people who sign up for my classes or coaching have a significant anxiety or stress problem related to public speaking. However, what I was fascinated to discover is that the root of the anxiety is often growing from either worries about the structure of the talk or discomfort around the ‘sales’ aspect of the public speaking. In other words: for many people the nerves and anxiety associated with public speaking was a symptom rather than the main problem.
This was a real breakthrough for my clients — the realisation that their public speaking anxiety was rooted in something specific that they could change and so eliminate the stress.
Speak with Clarity
When you speak with clarity your audience will hear your message.
It turns out the ‘how to plan and structure your talk’ is one of the most popular modules on my courses. There is nothing worse than standing up to give a presentation and five minutes in you realise that what you are saying is boring — you know it and you can see from the faces of the audience that they know it too!
Writing a presentation or talk is not the same as writing a report or a magazine article. Words that are designed to be spoken are not the same as words that are designed to be read. A mistake many speakers make is to write an excellent article or essay and then read it out. This does not usually make for a very engaging talk. (I should know — I’ve done it!). The other common mistake people make — often in a business setting — is to create a PowerPoint presentation first and then try to work out how to narrate the PowerPoint. Again, this results in dishwater levels of dullness in the delivery.
In the Speak with Clarity module, I teach my students how to break their talk down into bit-sized chunks — each chunk does a specific job which helps the audience along the journey of understanding. I provide models and flowcharts which can be used to structure talks of any length with ease.
Speak with Courage
Another common cause of speaking related stress is the discomfort we feel when trying to ‘sell’ something to the audience. Some people are naturally comfortable selling — for the rest of us we need to learn how. This isn’t about pressure selling or tricking the audience — but learning approaches to deal with our own hang-ups about selling and then adopting simple tools and techniques to ethically and easily present a nice clear call to action for the audience. Without a clear call to action the audience is unable to buy what you are selling.
In the Speak with Courage module I teach my students how to focus on what the audience needs and to realise that helping them get what they need is not pressure selling at all — it is simply offering a helping hand.
When you speak with courage the audience will respond to your message.
Speak with Confidence
When you speak with confidence your audience will believe your message
Speaking with Confidence is a game of two halves. It requires both learning how to feel and appear confident and also developing the skills to communicate clearly. We call those skills Stage Craft and they include everything from how to stand, where to stand, how fast to speak and how to hold a microphone.
The anxiety we feel when standing in front of a crowd to speak is a learned behaviour. This means we can unlearn it and replace it with a more helpful emotion.
The Speak with Confidence module is a combination of psychology which helps students understand their emotions and where fears come from — and lots of practical tips and techniques to manage and replace those fears.
The Speak with Confidence online course covers the three key areas that all my students say they need help with:
- How to feel less anxious and stressed
- How to write and structure a talk
- How to be more influential and move the audience to take action
Yes, the course is called Speak with Confidence even though it also covers how to Speak with Clarity and Speak with Courage as well. The thing is most people don’t yet know that the solution to their confidence problems lies in learning how to speak with clarity and courage until they have taken the course!
Learn more about the Online Speak with Confidence course