I wanted to share a great article written by Darren Hardy publisher of Success Magazine and mentor to many. Please share this article with your coworkers, students, and friends. Enjoy.
Success in today’s world comes down to your ability to sell your ideas, expand your influence and enroll others into a worthy mission or cause. That means you need to learn to present. In this 3-part series I will outline some key ideas to help you become a ‘rock star’ at it.
By the way, EVERYBODY is a public speaker. Maybe you’re presenting your ideas at an office meeting, interviewing for a new job, pitching your argument for why a new piece of office equipment is needed or trying to convince your friends which movie should win the Oscar. Whatever the situation, being able to speak effectively in public is essential to success.
A recent survey conducted by Distinction discovered that, of the executives and entrepreneurs surveyed, more than 86 percent said being able to present effectively has a significant impact on their income and success.
How to be Death-Defying
According to most studies, people’s No. 1 fear is public speaking. No. 2 is death. Doesn’t that sound insane? People would rather die than speak in public. That means if you go to a funeral, more people would rather climb into the casket than give the eulogy!
First off, let’s put this into proper perspective: No one has ever died giving a bad presentation… Well, except for President William Henry Harrison—he developed pneumonia after giving the longest inaugural address in U. S. history. Which I guess is our first lesson on giving a presentation—keep it short… or you might die… or at least kill the attention span of your audience.
Why we think speaking in public is an act of suicide—We come by this fear through our crazy ancestral brain wiring. You have to remember we have been walking erect for more than 4 million years. Even if you call “modern man” 6,000 years old, we have some long-living, deep-seated survival brain wiring that is really overinflated for our modern times.
We have learned that predators hunt in packs and their easiest prey are those who stand alone, without a weapon, on a flat area of land where there is no cover. What does that sound like? Yeah, standing on a stage, alone, in front of an audience, with all their eyes fixed on you.
Our ancestors, the ones who survived, that is, developed a fear-response mechanism to these situations. However, these days we are rarely chased by lions or attacked by packs of hyenas, making our fear-response programming out of sync with much of modern life.
You have to ask yourself, What’s the worst that can happen? Certainly death is rarely a consequence, so anything short of that leaves nothing to be afraid of, really.
Here’s about the worse that can happen… and it comes from my own chronicles in public speaking:
A while back I was giving a two-hour training to a group of a few hundred sales professionals. In the front row were a couple of women who kept smiling, giggling, elbowing each other and pointing at me. I thought, “Wow, I must have picked the right outfit for today! Man, I’m killing them up here.” I was encouraged so I got even more passionate and animated in my presentation. Near the very end of my talk I looked down and realized that my fly had been open the entire time. What was worse is the entire audience noticed that I noticed. I quickly put on a face of comic surprise and everyone roared. Then, as the laughter died down, I leaned against the podium, nodded knowingly, and said: “Remember this, of all the sales strategies, tips and tactics we talked about today, none of them mean a thing, unless you remember to close” and with that I zipped up my fly. I got a standing ovation and for years after that presentation people discussed whether or not I’d planned the whole incident.
Who Cares? (Certainly not the audience)
Someone once told me, the reason why there is NO reason to be nervous is that people care far less than you think. Think about the last time you were in row 30 of an auditorium or in the corner of a boardroom or in the back of some dreary classroom trying desperately not to daydream or fall asleep. You think they are hanging and judging you on your every word, when in reality their greatest hope is that you are close to ending.
Remember this: They’re not judging you as much as you think, because they don’t care as much as you think. I think knowing this helps enormously.
If some disaster does happen, something explodes or you trip and fall, at least you know you will have more attention from the audience now than in the 30 seconds before. Now you can use that attention to do something good. Certainly, whatever you say next will be remembered. If nothing else your tragedy will give the audience something fun and funny to share. The laughter from that story will do more good for the world than most anything your presentation might have done anyway. Meaning again, look, it’s not a big deal, really. The only one making it so is you. It’s all self-imposed fear conjuring.
No More Jitters
You might find it helpful to know that some of the most successful and famous public speakers have the same ancient brain wiring issues we all have.
- Mark Twain, who made most of his income from speaking, not writing, said, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”
- Elvis Presley said, “I’ve never gotten over what they call stage fright. I go through it every show.”
- Bono, of U2, claims to get nervous the morning of every one of the thousands of shows he’s performed.
- Thomas Jefferson was so afraid of public speaking that he had some one else read the State of the Union Address. George Washington didn’t like speaking either.
- Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Barbara Walters, Johnny Carson, Barbara Streisand have all reported fears of public communication.
- Even Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Jack Welch and James Earl Jones… and as we now know, the former King of England, all had stutters and were nervous speakers at one time in their lives.
So, hey, if you are a bit nervous, you are in good company… and there is a great chance you can still be stellar at it.
Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?
Here’s another tip someone shared with me about being nervous before speaking. If you are nervous that means you are being an egotist—making yourself way too important. Instead you should be making this about the audience. Think about them, their hopes, dreams and ambitions. You are there only to serve them. The spotlight should be on them, not you. When you take the spotlight off yourself and make what you are there for about them, not only does your nervousness go away, but you also empathize and connect with your audience better.
What do you do to overcome nervousness when speaking in public? Share your best practices with the community in the comments below.