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Become as Good of a Public Speaker as You are a Business Leader

-By Matt Eventoff

Sir Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

Effective public speaking skills in the business world can be just as important as your business acumen. It can mean the difference between climbing the corporate ladder missing the next rung.

It’s natural to be nervous when speaking in front of a group of people --- and that nervousness can increase exponentially if there is a lot riding on your presentation. I have been speaking in front of audiences for many years, and I still get nervous prior to my speeches or presentations.

That being said, I’m in pretty good company.  It has been noted that Sir Winston Churchill and President Abraham Lincoln also got quite anxious prior to speaking publicly.

Unfortunately, no matter how many books, courses, DVDs, websites or infomercials promise to “cure” you of your fear of public speaking; it is never that simple, or that easy.

That being said, there are a number of techniques, strategies and tactics to use to alleviate the fear and anxiety that can arise prior to speaking publicly.

Prepare, prepare, prepare --- Simply put, the more you prepare and the better grasp you have on the material you are presenting, the better your public speaking presentation will go. Familiarity breeds comfort.

Will there be a “Q and A” afterwards?  Try to anticipate potential questions which could stem from your presentation, and be prepared to answer those questions.  However, if someone should ask you a question for which you do not know the answer, admit that you don’t know the answer and offer to research the query, identify a timeframe in which you can respond and then respond with the answer.  Never pretend to know something you do not.

Know your audience --- Different delivery techniques may be necessary for different audience groups. Adjust your delivery accordingly.  Keep your audience at the forefront of your mind when preparing, practicing and delivering your presentation.

Practice, practice, practice --- Once you have prepared, you MUST practice, early and often. Rumor has it that Churchill practiced for one hour for each minute of speech content he was delivering. Five minutes of presentation equaled five hours practice. Okay, that may not be reasonable.  But ask yourself: What are the potential stakes of this presentation, and how much time am I investing in practicing?

Breathing --- Take a minute or two and take three slow, deep breaths. It will help you calm down and center your focus before you start your presentation.

Be aware of your body language --- Don’t stress about it or over-analyze your body language.  Try to maintain good posture by standing up straight (or sitting up straight with a slight forward lean, if you are seated when presenting).

Remember – the audience is on your side --- Nine times out of 10, the audience is rooting for you to succeed, not waiting for you to fall flat. Remember:  It is natural to be nervous. We are all human.

With preparation and practice, you can keep some nervousness and anxiety at bay.  With preparation and practice, every leader can become an effective communicator.  Work at it and you will be ready to rise to the occasion when your next opportunity comes along!


Matt Eventoff  serves as a communication and messaging strategist for C-level executives in organizations ranging in size from startups to Fortune 100 firms,… read more.

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  • Vince Stevenson says:

    This is a good post containing sound advice. The opening paragraph is the most telling… You need to be an excellent communicator these days to be able to lead, motivate and inspire your people. Your competitors have their own rhetorical devices to enhance their brand image and you have to compete with them for your market share. Communication is the primary tool in a knowledge based economy. What you say and the way you say it shapes peoples’ perceptions of you. So it’s worth putting the hours in. As the post says – practice, practice and finally – practice. Regards Vince

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