This public speaking expert says there are two kinds of “horses.” Which one are you? [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]
These are a few of the emotions some speakers―especially novices―experience whenever they present in front of an audience.
Does public speaking really have to be that scary from a speaker’s perspective?
While it’s completely human to feel these emotions before, during, and even after a speech or presentation, that sense of anxiety is something you can choose to overcome.
Dale Carnegie, an American writer and public speaking coach, mentioned in his “The Art of Public Speaking” book that one of the questions usually asked by his students is this:
“How can I overcome self-consciousness and the fear that paralyzes me before an audience?”
To answer that query, he gave an unlikely yet interesting insight:
A metaphor using horses!
Carnegie encouraged his students to imagine that there were two kinds of horses: The first one grazes near a train track and even with the thundering sound of an approaching train, the horse doesn’t bother to look up and run away from the area.
On the other hand, just ahead at the next railroad crossing, a farmer is nervously trying to calm his scared horse as the train passes by.
According to Carnegie, if you were the farmer, how would you cure your horse’s anxiety?
Would you place the animal in a back-woods lot where it won’t see steam-engines or automobiles, or would you bring the horse to a place where it would frequently see the machines?
It’s up to you on what you think is best for the horse in the long run!
Using that metaphor, here’s what Carnegie told his students:
“Apply horse-sense to ridding yourself of self-consciousness or fear: Face an audience as frequently as you can and you will soon stop shying. You can never attain freedom from stage fright by reading a treatise. A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet, perhaps even strangle and be ‘half scared to death.’ There are a great many ‘wetless’ bathing suits worn at the seashore, but no one ever learns to swim in them. To plunge is the only way.”
Based on Carnegie’s insights, what are some of the things you can do to overcome your stage fright?
Practice, practice, practice!
Try conversing with some public speakers you know.
When you ask them about their secrets to success, one of the things they’ll tell you is practice.
It’s because rehearsing your speech or presentation a few times before the big day really makes a BIG difference―doing so helps improve your reputation as a speaker!
Aside from that, practicing your talk tends to remove your fear of standing and presenting before an audience. It’s similar to how practicing swimming leads to confidence and facility in the water.
While this may sound a bit straightforward, Carnegie says the only way for you to learn to speak confidently in public is by frequently speaking in front of an audience. There’s no other solution for it.
Know your subject well.
“Concentration is a process of distraction from less important matters.” – Dale Carnegie
If you’re focused about your presentation topic, you’ll be able to think little about anything else.
It is too late to think about the small cut on the hem of your coat once you’re up on stage, so it’s best to focus your attention on what you have to say.
Fill your mind with your message and it will help drive out any unsubstantial fear you might have.
According to Carnegie, when it comes to public speaking, the self is secondary to the subject. To hold any other view is to regard yourself as an exhibit rather than as a messenger with a message worth delivering.
Remember: It is not just in acting or looking great that you will be deemed as a great speaker. It also lies in how much you know about your topic and how you effectively deliver and communicate your message to your listeners.
Be sure about what you’re going to say and plan your speech or presentation.
One common trouble for some speakers is to go on stage unprepared or unsure about what to say first.
When this happens, it is no wonder that their minds will be filled with the nearest things or thoughts they can think of, such as…
“I wonder if I am doing this right.”
“What does my audience think about my attire?”
“I don’t know what to say or how to start.”
… and many more fear-inducing thoughts!
Carnegie believes it is not enough to simply know your subject well. To acquire self-confidence, you also need to know WHAT you’ll say and HOW you’ll communicate your message to listeners.
Think about this: If you step out on stage without any preparation or stock knowledge about your topic, you’re actually stealing a part of your audience’s time.
To avoid taking something precious from the audience without giving something of equal or greater value, one of the things you can do is prepare yourself!
Have the first few sentences of your speech or presentation planned out so you won’t have any trouble thinking on your feet or finding the right words to say on the actual day of your talk.
Being confident about what you’ll say will help eliminate your public speaking fears.
Don’t just prepare for success. Expect it!
“Overconfidence is bad, but to tolerate premonitions of failure is worse, for a bold man may win attention by his very bearing, while a rabbit-hearted coward invites disaster.” – Dale Carnegie
Carnegie teaches his public speaking students to be modestly confident on the inside.
For him, true humility is not assuming a worm-like meekness. It is a “strong and vibrant prayer of greater power for service.”
In this case, it is the prayer of greater power for service in terms of communicating an important message to the audience.
If you know you’ve prepared well for your speech or presentation, then give yourself enough credit and don’t settle for less. Expect success coming your way!
Rid yourself of the “I am just a poor worm in the dust” idea. If you believe you will succeed in your talk, you will. That’s the law of attraction.
If you condition yourself and your mind for success, everything you do―before, during, and after your speech or presentation―will be towards achieving that goal.
In facing your audience, it’s important that you summon all your power of self-direction and keep in mind that getting your message across is important.
As stated by Carnegie, if you’re given an opportunity to speak, SPEAK.
“… To plunge is the only way.”
Be courageous. Focus on providing your listeners with the best speech or presentation you can possibly give.
… and lastly, make yourself calm and confident. By doing so, you’ll be able to effectively and compellingly get your message across.
Apply these tips in preparing for your next public speaking engagement!
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”
In a meeting with one person
…a boardroom with five people
…or a huge venue with hundreds of people
—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.
No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.
What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?
Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.
The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.
(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)
Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.
Have that advantage.
Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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