Sunday, February 05, 2006

Don’t Let Fear Conquer Your Greatest Marketing Asset, Your Voice

Public Speaking. Do these two words strike fear in your heart?

Do not let this fear stop you. You do not want to miss this opportunity to market yourself. Even if you are selling a product, you are still the main product that needs to be sold. After all if your customers don’t like or trust you they will not do business with you. Public speaking is a prime opportunity to highlight the benefits of doing business with you. In this article I will share some ideas to help you work through this fear.

I can still remember giving my first speeches in grade school. I would find a topic of personal interest. Dinosaurs were one of them. I would then get a book on the subject and write out five to ten minutes worth of material almost verbatim. Finally, I would stand in front of the class and read my speech. My hands would be sweating. My voice would be quivering and my knees shaking. Those few minutes in front of the class would seem like an eternity. I like many people suffered from fear of public speaking. I carried this fear all the way into early adulthood. What helped me overcome this fear? I joined a club called Toastmasters. They are a worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to public speaking, communications and leadership. This was the greatest career and life enhancing decision I have ever made. Since then I have done speeches on one of my professions, which is Massage Therapy to many organizations. I have also spoken for non-profit groups as a volunteer. I have even conducted fee-based workshops for other Massage Therapists. I continued this for eleven years of my life and now have entered the great profession of nursing and have had many opportunities to present information to my classmates. I would have not had all these great experiences if I was still living in fear of public speaking. It has allowed me to get my message out much more effectively than any print ad could ever do.

I now want to share with you some tips to work through your fear of public speaking. Of course my number one recommendation is to join a Toastmasters club. To find a club in your city go to www.toastmasters.org.These tips are as follows

1. Use visualization- Athletes have used this techniques for a long time and so can you. Before you decide to speak in front of an audience visualize your success. Usually before I give a speech I find a quiet time to visualize myself presenting it. I first hear the chairperson giving me a very flattering introduction. I then hear the rousing applause as I am welcomed in front of my audience. I picture myself walking up confidently and with a smile. I see myself standing silent for a moment while the audience waits in anticipation for my first spoken word. I picture myself presenting my speech in front of an intent and smiling audience. When I finish my speech the audience claps loudly and maybe even cheers. I walk confidently back to my seat. You may have noticed this visualization included both the senses of sight and sound. If you can find a way to include smell and touch that would be great! The more senses you involve the more vivid your visualization will be. Of course you may want to repeat this exercise daily for at least a week or two before your presentation. The more strongly you ingrain these images in your mind, the higher chance you will have of successfully controlling your fear.

2. Practice in front of a mirror or ideally in front of a cam-corder- By seeing yourself presenting you can give yourself some good honest feedback on your speech before you present it for real.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice- The more you practice and learn your speech the more confident you will become and you will really be able to focus on the message the day you do the real presentation.

4. Get support- Have a test audience made up of at least one or ideally more of your friends or family members and have them give you some feedback on your presentation. Also a Toastmasters club is a great place to get this kind of support

5. Just keep giving speeches- You will gain greater control over your fear each time you successfully work through it

Over time if you implement some of these tips you will overcome your fear of public speaking. Of course the butterflies may always be there no matter how confident you become. But you will now be able to help those butterflies fly in formation and channel that nervousness into creating more energy in your speeches.

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