I, like many, experienced discomfort whenever I had to address a crowd of unfamiliar faces. My palms would get damp, I would hear that annoying inner voice telling me that I couldn’t do it, I would wish I was elsewhere, I would see a white light beckoning me towards it (ok maybe this one didn’t occur). The caterpillars in my stomach would seemingly spring forth from their cocoons, spread their wings and throw a party the moment my name was called. So how does one overcome this fear and achieve mastery? Here are 3 strategies to help you master the mic, when the anecdotal advice of, “just picture everyone naked”,doesn’t float your boat.

1. Become Self Aware

I firmly believe that every fear stems from a lack of self-knowledge. The fear of public speaking comes from many ideas we have about ourselves: We think our ideas aren’t good enough, that we can’t speak well enough, that people will laugh at us if we stumble over our words, that we aren’t sociable. Many hide behind the crutch of ‘introvert’. These fears are valid, but will you let them limit the greatness within you? Or will you rise to the occasion? Take some time to explore your fears. Ask yourself, “what am I really afraid of?” For many it’s the fear of the outcome of the speech, which at its root, is a fear of criticism.

Even the greatest speakers on earth have critics. Understand that you are human, you will make mistakes. They are hurdles to overcome on the road to mastery, not cul-de-sacs to be perpetually trapped in. This requires a mental shift. You must replace your debilitating ideas with those that fill you with the desire to achieve. Say, “I am a great speaker”, till you believe it! Remember, public speaking is a skill and like all skills, it can be learned, improved and mastered, once enough effort is applied.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right

– Henry Ford

A large part of the process is visualizing success. Much of what we achieve begins as a thought. Think positively about your speech. Visualize a rousing applause. Think about the emotions you want you audience to feel. How best can you bring this out of them by sharing stories of your own experiences intertwined with the theme or topic? Above all, be yourself, be authentic.

2. Associate Seemingly Negative Emotions With Positive Outcomes

Very often, we mistake adrenaline for fear. The human body secretes this hormone in anticipation of something. The best part is you get to decide what that something is!  Rewire your brain to see the symptoms of fear as a sign that you are prepared to dominate. Re-define the butterflies in your stomach as the catalyst for a high flying performance. Recite the following affirmation daily:

My hands are clammy, my heart is beating fast, and my mind is racing. I’m ready to run with the mammoths and tigers! This is what I need to do a good job

– Nick Morgan

Convince yourself that these physical responses mean you no harm and are there to help you on your path to captivating your audience. It works. Believe me.

3. Practice. Makes. Perfect.

Preparation is my trump card. The majority of our fears come from uncertainty. If I told you a hungry lion was waiting for you around the corner, you would simply go the other way, others wouldn’t leave home that morning.

I regularly ask the participants who attend my self development workshops and seminars a simple question: “Are you nervous when someone asks you to tell them your name?” The response is “no” 99% of the time. Why? Because you have repeated it since birth and are confident that it’s the only string of words that you can’t mess up…even if everyone else does.

10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field

– Malcolm Gladwell

Preparation, as it is in life, is the key to success in public speaking. This practice can take many forms:

  • Asking a group of friends or family members to listen to your speech and give you honest feedback. Ask, “how was my body language, eye contact, the pace of my speech?; Did I get my point across clearly?” Questions such as this will help refine your delivery.
  • Reciting words you have trouble with in the mirror or eliminating them all together.
  • Researching the topic and the audience to whom it is to be delivered, ensuring that you are hitting their pain points. Context is king!
  • Working on your energy delivery. Can you transmute what you are feeling to your audience. Can you make them excited, sad, angry or inspired? There are several tactics I use to achieve this, which I will share in another post.
  • Watching videos of other public speakers. How did they do it, emulate, but never blatantly copy. Develop your own unique style that is authentic to you (see step 1).

Watching great public speakers is tantalizing to the eyes, ears and hearts. They weave an air of communication mastery. We wonder, how did they get so confident?, how do they keep everyone on their toes, holding the attention of so many persons at once? Like all things, mastery is achieved through immersion, practice and progressive improvement. While great speakers are definitely born, the truly masterful perfect their craft daily and see every opportunity to speak as practice. Where others see fear, begin seeing opportunity. Only then will you develop your lion’s roar.

Drops mic…