Perfecting Public Speaking

A reader writes:

Hello Anita,

I need your advice on something. Ever since I can remember I have been terrified of public speaking. Just the thought of it gets my stomach all stirred up. I have goals and aspirations to be an executive someday but know that I need to overcome my fears to get there. What can I do to make speaking in public less difficult?

Woman RunningDear, Stage Frightened,

Public speaking ranks very high up on the list of people’s biggest fears. According to Live Science’s article “What Really Scares People: Top 10 Phobias,” public speaking and social phobia ranked #4 behind scary spaces, spiders, and snakes.

Being in front of a crowd with all eyes on you can be intimidating and anxiety ridden. I myself have had my fair share of being stage shy. The thought of speaking to a group made me feel like running for my life. I have always been jealous of those lucky individuals that look carefree, unscathed, and darn-right comfortable when they are giving speeches and presentations. Not fair, right? Well, life is not fair and when life gives us lemons, what do we do? Make lemonade.

Before you start even thinking about presenting a topic in public, you have to figure out the key elements. My friend, Bonnie Cox at Power Training Institute, has a great amount of experience in public speaking and has offered her professional advice to us! How lucky are we? Here are Bonnie’s proven tips to become at ease with your presentation skills and make you a pro in no time at all.

  • Try to relax. Your audience is there to see you deliver a great presentation. They are not there to see you fail. Luckily for them, you won’t!
  • Know your topic cold. Practice it until you are comfortable.
  • Remember that everyone has stage fright. Let it work for you, not against you. It can be very energizing!
  • Focus on what your audience wants or needs to hear. It’s not about you.
  • Stay humble. If you are more focused on what you can give to your audience, you’ll be less focused on yourself.
  • Do not draw attention to your hiccups or your nerves. You are probably the only one who notices them.
  • Join Toastmaster or National Speakers Association to hone your skills and perfect your ability to connect with your audience.
  • Know the room that you will be presenting in.
  • Arrive to your presentation at least 15 minutes early.Microphones

And from Anita’s bag of tips and tricks, a final piece of advice to leave you with… As scary as it may sound, the only way you are going to be more comfortable with your public-speaking self to is practice, practice, and practice some more. The more times you present, the less anxious you will be and the better you will become. Baby steps are usually the best way to go about it. It may sound silly, but try practicing your speech out loud in front of the mirror. Once you have nailed it, enlist your friends and family to test your skills out on. It should be a
no-judgment environment, one you are completely comfortable with. Then move on to bigger stages and audiences. You will be a master in no time.

Toastmasters has come out with a great video called Five Basic Public Speaking Tips. Check it out here:

Readers, what do you do before and during a presentation that makes you the star of the show?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Building a Beneficial Brainstorm

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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