How do you overcome nervousness of public speaking or attending networking events?
I've heard "practice practice practice" several times. However, I still get anxious when I have an obligation to attend an event. I'd rather avoid them. I know talking to people is important for my brand, do you have any tips to help overcome this faster?
Hi Kristy, Public speaking fear is one version of "fight or flight" in that your brain doesn't know the difference between being physically and emotionally threatened. The fastest way to overcome this is to transform the emotion at the level of energy, which can be done in a matter of minutes with a skilled practitioner. Contact me at Business Energy Coaching if you'd like this taken care of once and for all. BTW, I used to be terrified of public speaking, used this technique, and am now totally relaxed conducting workshops in front of audiences of any size, dealing with whatever comes up.
Great question! I have been teaching public speaking for over a decade and I hear this question often. I have had the privilege now of serving over half a million people like you from around the world improve their skills. Here are 3 simple strategies that work:
1. Focus plays a huge part in how you "feel." What you focus on you will feel. If you focus on being nervous, sounding stupid or messing up, that is where you will go. Your brain will take you there. On the flip side, if you focus on your subject (objective, information you are presenting, etc) you will feel better. Also, make sure you focus on the other person and THEIR needs. When you focus on serving the other person through your communication and what they need, then you will feel amazing.
2. Be prepared. If you are giving a presentation that you knew about in advance, practice, practice, practice. Video yourself and watch it back. Do not bee too critical of yourself but notice anything you want to change. That will help you make it even better. If you meet someone on the fly, get curious about THEM. Ask them questions like,"I'd like to hear your story, tell me about yourself." Focus on their needs and getting to know them. Not "What can this person do for me."
3. Be in a good mood! Smile! Have fun! Networking does not have to be this daunting thing. Nor does public speaking. Have fun with it. Laugh at yourself if you flub a bit and people will laugh with you. When you can create laughter in a communication situation there is no better way to build rapport with the audience. To get yourself in a good mood, listen to positive music you love beforehand, training MP3's, or watch some comedy. When you feel good, anything is possible.
I hope this helps! If you want more tips, check out my YouTube Channel, Coach David Brownlee or drop me a line with any questions you have. I am putting together my next 7 week group coaching online for public speaking next month where we take you through the 7 steps to an amazing presentation. Let me know if you and your friends/ colleagues would like to join us. david at davidbrownlee dot com or (858) 367-0289. Love to have you.
Coach David Brownlee
I have spoken at hundreds (maybe thousands) of events over my career. I have also taught Public Speaking at one point. Let me give you some brief tips:
1. Remember that you will be nervous for less than 3 minutes usually 1 minute.
2. As you are walking up to the stage, press your thumb and index fingers together REAL HARD. There are some scientific and religious reasons why that works - suffice it to say it stops the nerves.
3. Know your subject so that you speak from your mind (and/or heart) and not read a speech. I have the paragraph contents in my mind as an outline and then speak without notes. If you need notes, they should be bullet points, not a speech.
4. Put your audience (and you) at ease. Humor always works - a brief comment about yourself, the day, location, weather or anything. The hardest group are those in attendance for CEU credits, i.e., professionals like CPAs, lawyers, medical professionals, etc. They have to sit through the class and usually don't smile. Maybe talk about a funny incident at the airport, or check in or something that everybody understands about the location. Example I once spoke at a conference in Honolulu and, being from NYC area, said I was surprised to know that people actually snow ski in Hawaii. That got people's attention, and I even showed a slide of the same.
5. Always try to use Power Point slides. It takes their focus away from you and on to the screen. That should make you more at ease.
6. My mentor way back when used to tell me that he would imagine that the audience was sitting there in their underwear. That didn't work for me, but the point was he was saying to focus on something other than people staring at you.
7. Have some animation in your presentation. Don't be boring. The snoring of the audience will distract you.
Kristy, I know of what you speak. However, I overcame my internal debate by taking a mentor's advice a long time ago, and it stays with me to this day.
No, it isn't the "imagine the audience in their underwear" advice. I don't know who came up with that BS, but it surely couldn't work.
What I have learned is to draw from within your creative self. Put on your best face and pretend you are serving a role for a live production; an actress. Act as though you are confident, assured, well-heeled and above reproach, even though you feel like vomiting.
"All the world's a stage, and the men and women are butt players;" is a portion of poetry from "As You Like it" by Wm. Shakespeare. He got it right then, and you can make it work for you as well.
Hang tough, and get out there.
I can speak to the public speaking side of things. I have handled a number of speaking assignments to groups as large as 3,500 and have been an instructor in public speaking for over 15 years. And so a few tips:
1) Have an outline. You can start out with a manuscript if you want when you're putting together your presentation but for the delivery you should only have an outline that has the main points you want to bring out. You may also have quotes from other source that of course you would want to have in its entirety. And remember most people will only be able to remember 3 maybe 4 main points even if you're talking for an hour so don't try to cram too many points into it. You'll lose focus and also lose your audience.
2) Practice the presentation until you know it cold. I can't emphasize this enough. You have to know and be comfortable with the material so that it becomes a part of you. This is much easier if the material plays into your strengths and expertise. And if you're using presentation materials (e.g. Powerpoint or Keynote) remember that those materials are your OUTLINE and not your presentation. And the slide deck should reflect that. In other words less is truly more. And again you should know this outline so well that you almost don't even need to look at your notes.
3) Naturalness. This is difficult if you're new to the speaking circuit but also the most critical in getting across your personality, integrity and reaching the heart of your audience. And how do you achieve it? You have to get it into your head that you're not really talking to 25 , 50 or 100 people -- you're talking to each INDIVIDUAL. And once you get into that mindset you will find that you're really having multiple one-on-one conversations simultaneously. And so be yourself. Don't try to become another person when you're up in front of a group because the audience will usually see through that immediately.
4) Eye Contact. This is important in connecting with your audience. When you're nervous you may want to look at the back wall or the clock or somewhere above everyone's head. But remember you're having a conversation with each person in the audience so say a few words directly to someone and then a few words to someone else and visually make eye contact with different persons across both sides of the room.
5) Gestures. When you're nervous you may want to hold your hands tightly in front of you or even put them in your pockets. DON'T. You want to gesture freely and naturally as you're talking. This allows you to use descriptive gestures to highlight something you're discussing and also emphatic gestures when you need to emphasize or HIT a point that you want your audience to remember.
So just a few pointers and I hope it helps!
Definitely bring a friend with you (who is good at networking) and let them do most of the talking and have them introduce you. Often times, the other person will respond to both of you (as your frined speaks) and you will feel more comfortable opening up...just make sure to make eye contact and smile. Give a good, firm, friendly handshake. Listen to what your friend says and jump in when you are ready. You'll be a pro in no time.
Another thing to do is find out who the host is and let them know it's your first time at their event. They will make you more comfortable and introduce YOU to others.
Try and attend events with the same host or a regular weekly, monthly event so you can get to know some of the same people first, get really comfortable with them and then move on to the next group/event. It's beneficial to go to the same groups/events so as to build relationsahips and pretty soon you'll start seeing familiar faces and you'll be much more comfortable...best of luck!
You have great answers above and I second Steve Smith's comments in their entirety. I have been in your position and to a degree, still am. Two helpful actions really helped me: (i) I joined Toastmasters and, while the group I was in folded after a few meetings, those first few meetings were very instructional and supportive; and (ii) give a presentation to a "friendly" group, memorize the presentation, preferably with no or only a few slides, and after it is memorized, add in several places some humor or personal information that need not be memorized. Then practice the entire presentation and give it, and if you can give it to two or more groups, you will be amazed how much more comfortable you will be in presenting.
Try to remember you are offering help and expertise, and you know more about what you want to offer than those you are addressing....And yes you have 20 seconds to get their attention
Public speaking and networking are two different types of events. When you are presenting to an audience the better you know your audience and your material to make it understandable for the group the better. The same presentation does not work for every group. You must learn as much as you can about the group.
When it comes to networking, I have two tips:
1. Look for people who are talking at 90 degrees to each other. This means they are open to others in the conversation. If they are standing face to face. Don't interrupt. Ask questions about them or make small talk until you find a comfort zone or something in common.
2. Be prepared with a catchy description of what you do that makes people want to ask more questions rather than say, "That's nice." and move on. The difference between "I work for an engineering company that makes filters for concrete companies." OR "I design filters that clean the air you and your family breathe." Which would make you want to ask more questions?
Hi Kristy ~
These are two different questions: talking with people one-on-one, and speaking before a group. For networking events, being yourself and asking the person you're talking to questions works really well: everyone loves to talk about themselves, and if you ask questions about their business, you'll learn all about them. Maybe you can even bring event coupons to share for a special gift, such as executive style session, when they visit your boutique.
Public speaking is typically fraught with nerves for most people, unless and until they join a group and practice. I trained with Lee Glickstein, founder of Speaking Circles International, which takes a very different approach than Toastmasters or other public speaking groups. The focus is on connecting one to one, and speaking directly to one person at a time from the heart ~ so it may be a good "practice" for networking events, too. Here's the site to learn more: http://www.speakingcircles.com
Hope this is useful.
Kristy, I have been in business for 38 years and have spent most of my time in various networking and event interactions as a primary way of building business. I can tell you that if you feel anxious, it's most likely the result of not having a plan for networking. Practice is very important, as many have already suggested, but a plan gives the whole networking effort meaning!
Most of the time, networking anxiety comes from unrealistic or disconnected expectations about why you are going. Without a clear plan of what you want to accomplish, any outcome is going to feel disappointing.
Here's a way to create a simple plan for networking:
1. What is your primary area of strength? What's your expertise? Getting clear about the value you bring will bolster your confidence.
2. Who's going to be at the event you attend? What industries or occupations are they coming from and is there a specific purpose for the event? ie- real estate or HR.
3. Do you have a comfortable way to approach peple you don't know? If not, think about how to meet people and strike up an informal conversation. The best book I've ever read on this is 'Convince Them in 90 Seconds" by Nicholas Boothman.
4. Know what you are looking for in a potential contact. Don't go expecting to close sales or get immediate business. This is a cardinal mistake of inexperienced networkers. Go with the objective of meeting a few quality people who might become potential referral sources or collaborators.
5. Don't pass out your business card indiscriminately. Offer it to people who ask. If your initial conversation is stimulating, they will ask!
6. If you need support, attend your events with a friend. Tag teaming is a great way to minimize the stress.
Now, once you have answered these questions and created a plan you are comfortable with, practice it! Not all networking events will be winners. Networking is not a sprint, it's a marathon and the people who stay with it are the ones who benefit long term.
Look at it as a friend and not a duty/problem. IF your good on the phone then this is just a baby step up the hill. Most people with a problem for public speaking can trace it back to a bad event in childhood. Get that behind you and it becomes easier. Deep breath and focus on 3 or 4 people in the group you don't know.
First of all, understand that the anxiety is never going to go away completely, you have to learn to use the nervousness to power your communication rather than to let it freeze you. Also, do you have a mentor or coach who can accompany you to a couple networking events - it is often easier to have some support there rather than trying to go alone. And lastly, both public speaking and networking events require planning. Do you know what you want to accomplish at a Networking Event?
Practice is important. You must be prepared with specific topics in mind to share with the audience or a person with whom you want to network. Having a specific goal(s) that you want to achieve when sharing in public and one-on-one will help you eliminate nervousness and keep your focused.
Kirsty, many years ago I felt the same as you, but then I attended a Dale Carnegie course on Human Relations and Effective Communication. Amongst other things it gave me some frameworks and the opportunity to practice in a safe and supportive environment. I am sure they still run courses or ones like them in your area and would commend that you look into signing up for one - what have you got to lose? - It made a huge difference to me.
Public speaking is so important for any kind of business , nervousness of public speaking makes the person speaking less concentration on topic -I can advice you to cool down before speaking don"t put yourself under any pressure on the same day of speaking , Plus don"t ever look at the people faces while delivering your speech , only keep in mind your topic ,your sentences , words you are thinking of , practice it once then you will get used to it . All the best .
I never practice but it depends on who you are. The main thing is not to take yourself too seriously but to take your subject very seriously. Be confident in your knowledge and don't be afraid to admit you're not an expert if you don't know an answer.
When I first started my business, networking was critical... but I HATED to network. As is my way, I needed to determine a process that worked... that got me through my fear and hatred, and became a successful way of generating leads for my business. I did that very successfully.
If I was to provide one easy step for getting over fear of networking it would be to think in advance, and even memorize, good questions to ask the other people you talk with. Fear comes from the concern that you won't know what to say. Networking is all about making the other person feel important, and asking them questions, as if you are interested in them, is the right way to go. In addition, with a memorized list of questions, you are ready to have things to say. It works...
I wrote an e-book entitled "Networking... for Those Who Hate It", that includes the above technique as well as others. I think you will find it very useful, and you can have it for free. Go here: http://bit.ly/2d9B9Fq
Hi Kristy - great question! First, when you hear yourself say, "I'm nervous" just substitute "I'm excited!" Then, slow your breathing down methodically to slower, deeper breaths. Look at just one person at a time in your audience, not everyone at once, so it will feel like a bunch of one-on-one conversations, and keep your hands free, out of pockets, not stuck together, so you can gesture naturally and freely, which will loosen up your body, and give you energy. By putting your attention on the other person in a networking conversation and taking an interest in them, you eliminate self-consciousness and are more engaging. Have fun with this process! Contact me if interested!