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Outstanding Presentations Start in the Mind: Five Secrets for Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety

By: Ed Sykes

Public speaking presents such a challenge for many people. In the Book of Lists, public speaking anxiety and making a presentation constitute the number one fear; the fear of dying is number two. Like the old saying goes, “People would rather be in the grave than make a presentation.” You see people sweat, shake, and quiver while they are speaking. Sometimes, employees bypass promotions, and business owners bypass business opportunities rather than give a presentation. I saw a manager who was on the corporate fast track quickly become derailed because she couldn’t complete her presentation in front of senior management.

So what do great speakers do to prepare themselves to be great presenters? They prepare their minds to give a great presentation. That’s right; it all starts in your mind. How can you develop a great speaker’s mindset and start giving outstanding presentations? The following are five secrets for powerful public speaking:

1. Believe It So That You Can Achieve It
I am approached by people who say, “I can’t speak in public,” “I am a bad speaker,” or “I could never speak in public.” Without hearing them speak, I say, “You’re right.” Because once you make those negative statements, they become self-fulfilling prophesies. When you say, “I am a bad speaker,” your subconscious mind is thinking, “Well, he or she said it, so it must be true; so I will act like a bad speaker.” Positive speaking attitude (PSA) is one of the first things I work on during my presentation coachings. Replace the negative speaking attitude with a PSA to master your self talk and improve your presentation skills. Instead of saying, “I am a bad speaker,” say the following:

* “I am improving my public speaking abilities everyday in everyway.”
* “Every opportunity to make a presentation is an opportunity for success.”
* “I am a good public speaker today; and, with continued practice, I will be a better public speaker tomorrow.”
* “I am mastering my presentation skills everyday!”

When you make these positive affirmations, your subconscious mind hears it and says, “Yeah, I am improving,” or “Let me speak because it is an opportunity for success,” or “I am mastering my speaking skills.”

Manage your self talk for a PSA. You will feel a new confident attitude concerning public speaking.

2. Think About What You Want to Accomplish
I will ask the question, “What do you want to accomplish with your presentation?” Many times I will be on the receiving end of a blank stare or the student might say, “I just want them to listen to me.”

Take time to think about what you want to accomplish by giving your presentation. Is it that you want to entertain the audience, do you want to persuade them on an important issue, or maybe you want the audience to take action after hearing your presentation. Going into your presentation knowing what you want to accomplish creates focus and is a big confidence builder.

3. Visualize Success
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at an association conference with over five thousand people in the audience. Joy, my wife, was sitting in the audience with our friend Jim who came to hear me speak for the first time. As I was about to speak, Jim leaned over and asked Joy if I was nervous speaking in front of such a large group of people. Without blinking an eye, Joy said, “He was born for this day. He saw this day coming when he first started speaking.”

I visualized that day long before it happened. Whenever I give a presentation, I take time to visualize a successful presentation and positive outcome. The more details I include in my visualizations, the more vivid and real it becomes for me. The night before the presentation I will find a quiet place at home or, if I am on the road, a hotel room, and meditate to start the visualization process. I will visualize my drive to the event, greeting the host and audience, and how my powerful presentation will sound and look on that day. I will also visualize the audience’s positive response to the presentation.

Take time to visualize the details of giving a great presentation. Like the old saying goes, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” If you visualize you are a great speaker, you will take the steps and create opportunities for yourself to become a great speaker.

Visualize that the audience wants to hear your message and they want you to do well. Remember, it’s their time also and they want to receive value out of your speech.

4. Own the Room
Whenever I speak, I “own the room.” I mentally tell myself that for the next thirty minutes, hour, etc., I own the room. The corporation, association, or government may own the building or venue I am speaking in, but during the time I am speaking, I am the owner of the room and the audience will be my guests, my friends. That way I am always in control to give an outstanding presentation.

Think of your speaking area as your house, your home, your castle. When you invite friends into your home, aren’t you in control and want to provide a safe, entertaining environment for your guests? The same is true for your speaking audience; you want to provide a safe, entertaining, and enriching experience for them.

I always say, “Giving presentations is not about me, it’s about you (the audience).” What I mean is that if I am constantly thinking about how I sound, look, and feel while I speak, I am not thinking about what I can share with my audience. Concentrate on the value you will give to your audience members and you will never go wrong.

5. Eat the Elephant
Many times I hear the following:

“I could never speak in front of a group of people, but one-on-one I am fine.”

Well, I ask, “How do you eat the elephant?” Break the elephant into smaller pieces. It is the same when you “digest” the audience. Don’t think of the audience as a whole, think of the audience as individuals ready to hear your message. Concentrate on thinking of your audience as individuals, and your message will come across that way to the individual audience members.

Follow these five secrets for creating a positive mindset for confident public speaking. Overcoming your public speaking anxiety will improve your presentation skills and create new opportunities for you through public speaking.

So what do great speakers do to prepare themselves to be great presenters? They prepare their minds to give a great presentation. That’s right; it all starts in your mind. How can you develop a great speaker’s mindset and start giving outstanding presentations? The following are five secrets for powerful public speaking:

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