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Focus on your audience

You are scheduled to give a presentation tomorrow, but you are dreading it.

These thoughts keep running through your mind: “What if I stumble?”; “What if they don’t like me?”; “What if they ask questions and my mind goes blank?”; and “Will they judge me?”

Does any of this sound familiar? The biggest obstacle in public speaking is the “all-about-me” mindset — my fear, lack of confidence, doubts, inability and imperfection.

The essence of public speaking is not for you to look good or perfect, but to give your audience value. The reason for you to speak in public is always about what your audience can get from your speech, why they listen to you and what they want or need.

If your mind is preoccupied with the “I” or “me” list, you will have no room to focus on anybody and anything beyond that.

The critical strategy of overcoming your fear of public speaking is to shift your focus from “all about me” to “all about them, the audience”.

Here are three tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Ask the right questions

The questions you ask yourself reflect where your focus is. Asking yourself the right questions will help you shift your focus and become a more relevant and engaging speaker.

Before you give a speech next time, ask yourself: “Who is the audience?”; “What is most important to them?”; “What is their current level of knowledge?”; and “What do they want or need to know about this topic?”

These questions will help take your mind off yourself and take an interest in your audience. They will help you focus on the message you are going to give and how it will benefit your audience.

If you can’t answer any of the above questions, it is time to do some homework and preparation.

2. Anticipate positive outcomes

In your “I” or “me” list, your focus is on what could go wrong and what will not work. You are anticipating your presentation as a failure. You see yourself stammering, fumbling clumsily with notes and the audience laughing at you. Stop it! This will only make you more nervous and scared.

Successful athletes never anticipate what will go wrong or what won’t work before their performance. Instead, they anticipate the best of their performance and visualise it.

If you want to overcome your fear of public speaking and give value to your audience, these negative thoughts will not help.

Think positively before each presentation, and envision yourself standing tall, breathing freely and with ease, speaking confidently and delivering your speech smoothly.

3. Accept imperfection

All speakers make mistakes. Well-known American speaker Patricia Fripp once said: “There are three types of speakers: those who have bombed; those who will bomb; and those who will bomb again.”

Perfection is not the goal of public speaking. Neither does your audience expect perfection from you. They are more concerned about what they can walk away with. If you can address the interest of your audience and give them something of value, they will consider your presentation a success.

Public speaking is an incremental process. Everyone makes mistakes. What’s more important is that you learn from your mistakes and keep building your experiences and skills, so you get better and better.

Before your next presentation, take some time to ask yourself the right questions, anticipate the positive outcome you want and accept imperfection. You will be on your way to anxiety-free public speaking. Remember, public speaking is never about you! - Source: Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

Article by Cynthia Zhai, founder and master trainer of Connecting2Success International, a company providing training and speech coaching services.