Got Podium Panic? Here's How to Get Your Message Across

Business.com / Last Modified: February 10, 2017

Most people would rather visit the dentist than give a speech! 7 tips to help you deactivate podium panic.

As a kid, you probably had no trouble developing a winning speech. Topics such as, "How Increasing My Allowance Will Benefit Family Harmony," and "Why Teenagers Need A Flexible Curfew" were doubtless just a few of the persuasive speeches you polished to perfection.

But for most adults, giving a presentation ranks right up there with fear of death! Yet giving a talk is a wonderful way to build awareness of both your profession and your brand.

Here are seven steps to deactivate podium panic:

Take a tip from the Scouting motto: Be Prepared. Just as you wouldn't create a teleclass without being grounded in the material, don't assume you can improvise from the platform. The most seasoned speakers rehearse until they sound impromptu. Practicing your talk beforehand will go a long way towards alleviating anxiety — and help ensure that you cover all the salient points.

Adapt what you know to a broader context. Prior to becoming a life and business coach, I was the director of communication for a mid-sized company, and later launched my own marketing communications business. I understand the secret to creating "buzz" around a new product. I know the 4 Ps of marketing: product, placement, promotion, price. When I was asked to speak to a group of college seniors, I was able to coach these soon-to-be grads in how to apply those same attributes to package, promote, price and place themselves correctly in the marketplace in order to land their first jobs. Turning your expertise into "how-to's" for others creates an instant speech topic — and fabulous audience rapport.

Choose a topic that fits the occasion. Sometimes speech topics are obvious. Maybe you're running for local office and want to persuade the town's residents to vote for you. Or a nuclear power plant is about to be built in your city. Your speech topic might be, "How Nuclear Radiation Will Affect Your Health."

Customize your content. With a little planning, you can take the same core material and adapt it for different groups with diverse purposes. For instance, say your key message has to do with how a client company's small business health care program can reduce down time and absenteeism. With slight modifications, you can speak to a Rotary Club, a Chamber of Commerce, a meeting of hotel health spa directors, or a group of school principals. Learn something significant about each organization and weave this information into your presentation. Your audience will appreciate the effort you made to understand their unique concerns.

Animate your talk with a terrific title. Book reports looked more polished when you handed them in with creative covers, and your talk will sound more interesting if you give it a memorable title. If it's humorous, so much the better. Here are a few of my talk topics that focus on workplace wellness: "Renewable Y-O-U: Nine Practical Tools to Disembark the Stress Express"; "Deadlines or Lifelines? Creating Spirit-Smart Work"; "From Harmful to Harmony: 13 Simple Steps to a Healthier Home and Office." Do they intrigue you?

See the audience as your support team. No matter how many butterflies are hatching in your stomach, remember that the people seated before you have come here with one purpose: to hear what you have to say. They want you to succeed! So view them as your allies, and don't apologize for being nervous.

Reframe agitation as enthusiasm. Excitement and nervousness are actually identical emotions in the body — it's all a matter of perspective. Keep your focus on the essential information you have to impart that will help audience members improve their lives, grow their businesses, or whatever your topic is designed to do — and this intention will come through, with bells on. In fact, your speaking jitters might be interpreted as enthusiasm for your subject matter — which in fact is true.

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