Understand Other People

Better communication through a better understanding of behavior

Is Public Speaking Scary?

Choose Communicating with Confidence Instead!

It’s an often-quoted fact that the fear of public speaking is a top fear amongst the general population. Sometimes referred to as “social phobia” or “social anxiety”, the thought of getting up in front of a room filled with people is anxiety-provoking in many. For some people, even the fear of speaking up in a classroom or a small group is uncomfortable. There is something about having everyone’s attention focused on what you are saying that is unnerving.

The problem is that the ability to communicate with confidence is key to success in many venues. We all want to get our point across and do it in a way that engages or influences others. If we freeze up because of anxiety, or we focus too much on how we look and sound, we can’t possibly be as effective.

You may have set a New Year’s goal to overcome a fear of public speaking. There are many great techniques to do this, such as deep breathing, self-hypnosis and using self-talk. Here I will outline the six keys to confident communicating so that once you are calm and relaxed, you can prepare your presentation and deliver it with confidence to your desired audience.

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  1. Know why. What’s the point of this presentation? What does success look like to you? We get very focused on the content – what we will say and how we will say it. We often don’t think about what we would like our audience to receive as a result of our communication.
  2. Know who. Part of the reason that we feel anxiety around presenting is that we become too focused on “me”. Instead of thinking about my audience, my listener, and what they might care about, I am thinking about myself – how do I look? What do I sound like? What will I say? Put your focus on the person or people on the other side. What would you like them to know as a result of your presentation?
  3. Create flow. Too many times the information is so dense, or so complicated or so disorganized, that we aren’t giving our listener a chance to assimilate it and understand it. Look at what you want to communicate. How can you chunk it down so it is separated into segments, or areas of information? Having a flow helps you organize your material and helps the listener understand it piece by piece.
  4. Provide context. If the information you want to convey doesn’t have meaning for your audience, it will fall on deaf ears. Context means sharing new information in a way that the person listening can have the “ah-hah!” moment. Sharing a story, giving interesting background or relating it to something they already know about could all work.
  5. Understand preferred communication style. If you are a fast talker and use a lot of gestures when you speak, but you are talking to someone who needs time to digest and think about the information and speaks slowly and thoughtfully, you may not get your message across. Match your style to that of the audience. Many times a presenter will just think, “They can understand this!” but if you don’t deliver in a way that they recognize and that allows them to understand it, they will struggle to really hear what you are trying to say.
  6. Bring closure. What do you want as a result of this communication? What is the next step? What is your desired outcome? Where do you need the listener or audience to go from here? Closure means being clear about who, what, when, how and why.

Having a clear plan and a method for presenting can eliminate a lot of the general fear you may experience. If you can share information in a way that allows the listener to connect, to understand and to gain something, you will not only deliver a solid communication or presentation, but you will win the hearts and minds of your listeners, too.

Beverly D. Flaxington teaches at Suffolk University.

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