IT HAS been said that the greatest fear most people have is of speaking in public. People supposedly fear public speaking more than death!

This statement has been repeated many times — I don’t believe it, and neither should you. Giving a speech or presentation is easy. It’s just like talking to a few friends, only there are more of them.

Yet many people are anxious or even terrified as they rise to give a presentation. What are these people afraid of? They are afraid of making a mistake, being embarrassed or being judged unfavourably.

These are irrational fears. However, no amount of logical reasoning will put the suffering speaker at ease. The sufferer must, above all, feel confident.

When I began speaking in public, I confided to a mentor that I felt nervous. He told me I would not feel so anxious if I imagined everyone was naked. I thought this method could be distracting, especially if there were attractive members of the opposite sex in the audience.

Someone else told me to imagine that everyone had a watermelon for a head. When I finally rose to give my speech, I imagined a room full of naked watermelons.

Whether you think you’re addressing a nudist camp or a watermelon patch, you can’t help but feel silly. Fortunately, there is a better way to deal with stage fright. You can work on your Pecs: preparation, enthusiasm, confidence, smile.

Preparation

A presentation is rarely unexpected. You know it’s coming, so there is no reason not to prepare for it. Understand the subject matter, anticipate any questions and objections likely to come your way, and have your answers ready.

Rehearse your presentation, with a friend. Videotape yourself and see what you do well, where you need to improve, and practise the weaker parts until you improve your performance. As Alexander Graham Bell said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm truly is contagious. Not only will enthusiasm make you appear more credible, it will also help you persuade people emotionally. People decide based on emotion and justify their decisions with reason. Offer them both a solid line of reasoning and an emotionally appealing delivery.

Speaking enthusiastically is also more fun than speaking in a matter-of-fact manner. If you sound like you are having fun, you will feel the same way, and you will forget about your worries.

Confidence

If you are well prepared, you have every reason to be confident. But, if you do not feel confident, you can overcome this by:

* Mentally rehearsing your presentation. Visualise yourself making a killer presentation to an appreciative audience.

* Recalling all the times you gave an effective presentation. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.

Also, remember that you are the expert. The reason you were chosen to make the presentation is because you know more about the subject than anyone else in the room. The audience will assume this is true even if you have some doubts.

Even experienced speakers feel butterflies in their stomach before giving a presentation. This is normal. It means you are alive. Think of it as a feeling of exhilaration rather than anxiety.

Whatever you feel, no one needs to know unless you let them. So, stand tall, speak with power and conviction, and exude confidence. Acting confident will help you feel the same way.

People are their own worst critics. If you are worried, you are probably being too hard on yourself. Your audience will be more impressed with your performance than you will be.

Believe it or not, people want you to succeed. Have you ever seen a person self-destruct while giving a presentation? It is uncomfortable for everyone in the room. Your audience is rooting for you— especially if they like you.

Smile

People like and trust those who smile. Before beginning your presentation, pause, look at your audience, and smile! It will make both you and your audience feel better.

Before your next speech or presentation, banish stage fright by working on your Pecs.