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Make Yourself Feel More Comfortable While Public Speaking

Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway at Columbia University back in 2009 said that public speaking is one of the most valuable skills that you can develop to jumpstart your career. In fact, it has the potential to boost your career by 50%.

I attended one seminar a few years ago where one woman asked a question to the panelists, “What is the best thing I can do for my career?” One of the panelists responded, “You can get comfortable with public speaking.”

An estimated 75% of people struggle with public speaking nervousness. Some of the common feelings before any public speaking are palms getting sweaty, heartbeat becoming faster, the mind going blank, and the fear grasping you that you will forget everything you have prepared.

When I asked my friends and colleagues what makes them nervous, invariably they respond with the same answers:

“I don’t like being watched.”

“I don’t like being in the spotlight.”

For a beginner, the problem is that when he/she gets up to speak, he tries to avoid eye contact with the audience members at first. It may seem like an effective strategy for coping with speaking anxiety, but it makes matters worse and makes you more nervous.

So, what can you do to make yourself feel more comfortable while speaking in front of an audience?

1. Choose a topic you’re passionate about.

When you are passionate about something, it is easier to talk about it and inspire others to share your enthusiasm. You can overcome your nervousness about public speaking by choosing a topic that:

  • Has significantly impacted you

  • You want to share with others

  • You strongly believe that others could gain from knowing, and

  • You can speak about it from the heart

For example, if you are a gardener, you can start speaking about gardening. Similarly, if you are passionate about sports, you can talk about different sports activities, sports events, players, sports seasons, and so on.

2. Share interesting stories with your audience.

Your speech will be significantly more memorable, intriguing, and engaging if you use real-life examples. Once you see that your audience is engaging and enjoying, you will start to feel more comfortable and at ease.

However, be wary of the stories you use. They should be short, well-explained, positive, and interesting. For instance, If you're raising funds for childhood cancer, don't keep telling people the same heartbreaking tale of a family friend's kid who died too young.

You must also select a story that is a fit and relatable to that particular audience. For example, a story delivered for the Audience in India may not be relatable to an American audience. Or a story about kids will not be relatable to retired people while the same will be more relatable to the audience in a parenting seminar.

Go with stories that are as close to the audience as possible.

3. Pause.

If you find yourself speaking too quickly during the speech, take a moment to breathe. This won't appear unusual because it will seem as though you are carefully considering what you are saying.

You can also purposefully plan some of your pauses, such as those after questions or at the end of sections since this will allow you a chance to collect yourself and also allow the audience to think about it and reflect.

While pausing, make sure you avoid using filler words like "uh", and "um". These filler words give the impression that you are confused/unsure and not confident.

Taking pauses will offer you much-needed comfort while allowing the audience to grasp your talk.

4. Build a Connection.

People think public speaking is about sounding smart, so they overemphasize their knowledge, use big, fancy words and forget to be themselves. The outcome? Anxiety — and a bored, disengaged audience.

Building a connection with your audience is the key to successful public speaking. Sure, you do have something to say, and it is certainly amazing. But if you pay more attention to your content than to the people you’re sharing it with, you miss the connection part.

I read the book “Ted Talks” by Chris Anderson, the curator of TED. In his book, the author asserts that public speaking is more important than ever. As a leader—or as an advocate—public speaking is the key to unlocking empathy, igniting passion, sharing knowledge and ideas, and promoting a shared dream.

Public speaking does more than merely raise your status in the eyes of your boss and senior executives. Your on-stage presence at conferences and events can also have an impact on your industry reputation. When you talk, you establish yourself as an expert, which adds credibility to your statements. In fact, according to one statistic, it was estimated that the fear of public speaking inhibits promotion to management by 15%.

So what is the bottom line?

Effective public speaking abilities can help you grow in your career overall because they demonstrate traits like poise, professionalism, leadership, critical thinking, and creativity, all of which are highly valued in the job market. Do everything you can to improve your game in that aspect to reap the benefits. These advantages may include career advancement, travel, and increased access to industry information and knowledge.

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