Public speaking… these two words can trigger dread for many people. Yet the art of communicating to an audience is an essential skill for many professionals.

Sweaty palms, nausea and even panic attacks, ‘Glossophobia’ is a common fear, with an estimated 75 per cent of people suffering from it to varying degrees. And even the unlikeliest candidates have confessed to stage fright, including Abraham Lincoln, Adele and Prince Harry.

In the luxury event planning business, every event requires someone to take to the stage – from a key note speaker talking at a conference to the nervous groom delivering his wedding speech – and I have pledged to take up more chances to speak publicly this year. Here’s how to address a room with confidence…

Understand Your Anxiety

There are not many people who say they ‘enjoy’ public speaking. The very nature of taking centre stage triggers worries of what people think, the fear of forgetting your words and making mistakes.

Viv Groskop, author of ‘How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking’ * says that “feeling sick and anxious is not a good reason to say “no” to public-speaking events. It’s just a sign that you’re a human being.”

If you accept that nerves are normal, you can embrace the adrenalin to enhance your performance. Do some deep breathing before your speech to steady your voice and help you feel composed.

Be True to Yourself

Don’t take on the persona of what you think a successful speaker should sound like. This will increase the feeling of a false ‘performance’. By presenting yourself in a way that feels natural to you, everything you say will feel authentic and your audience will actively listen to you.

However, there is nothing wrong with checking out clips of inspirational speakers to help improve your skills. Viv really admires Michelle Obama’s ability to “occupy the highest and most prestigious spot in the room while talking to charity workers, the homeless, hip hop stars and the Queen all in exactly the same way.”

Make Sure you Know Your Subject

Plan and practice your speech and make sure you are comfortable with the topic. The nerves will kick in if you are unsure of what you are saying, so think about the positive outcomes you want to happen as a result of your presentation. You will then be on track to achieve the right impact with your audience.

Just Go For It

There is much to be said for tackling the fear head on. Viv recommends positively accepting any occasion to speak: “Start small with offering to do a toast at a gathering. Get used to silencing a room and having everyone turn to look at you.”

Try not to have big expectations from your performance. “You are not going to be Martin Luther King… if you are being asked to deliver the Q4 marketing report”, says Viv. Your self-confidence will increase every time you speak, so be confident and grab the opportunity to shine!

*How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking’ by Viv Groskop.
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