Click to Print

Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

Fear of public speaking got you in its grip? Try these tips, and become the talk of the town.
March 1, 1997

The mind is a wonderful thing. It starts working the minute you're born and never stops until you get up to speak in public. -Anonymous

Most Americans rank public speaking as one of their greatest fears. Yet, for many small firms, the CEO's ability to get up before an audience and make a clear, concise, authoritative presentation can make a huge difference in the company's success.

That's why it's so important that you be able to tell your company's story effectively and to appear before others as a recognized expert in your industry.

But while you may be a whiz at informing, educating and persuading others one-on-one, even the most bright, personable and generally articulate people often have trouble giving a public presentation. This problem is not specific to any one industry: It's a universal occurrence.

Dozens of accomplished business professionals avoid appearing before an audience because they are insecure about doing it. That's as foolish as putting off a physical exam because you feel "fine." If entrepreneurs knew how much they could improve the health of their businesses by becoming effective public speakers, more of them would jump on the bandwagon.

Cultivating public speaking opportunities helps you promote yourself as an expert in your field. Speaking before business and civic groups is a natural starting point; offering free seminars is another excellent way to help build people's confidence in your company and earn public respect. Being interviewed, appearing on TV or radio talk shows, or speaking at a trade show or conference (even as a panel member) can have immeasurable value for your company. The key is to do it with style and impact. If you are successful as a public speaker, then most people will assume you are a successful businessperson, too.

Fine-tuning your public speaking skills will improve your performance in other areas, such as conducting meetings; making sales presentations; negotiating with bankers, clients or suppliers; and even socializing. Every time you speak with confidence, style and ease, you enhance the profile and visibility of your company, attract more business and generate credibility for yourself and your company.

Talk of the Town

If you need help improving your speaking ability, you have several options. Scores of books and manuals are available to help you develop your speaking ability. Just visit the business or self-improvement section of your bookstore or library. One of my favorites is Successful Presentations for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide) by Malcolm Kushner. It's easy to follow and very helpful.

If books aren't enough, consider joining an organization such as Toastmasters International. This group has been around for more than 70 years, and millions of people have become "overnight" orators by following Toastmasters' methods and curriculum.

Whatever method you choose to improve your speaking ability, the following tips will help you give the best possible talk:

As Harvey Mackay, author of Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, once said, "Speeches are like diamonds: No matter how much they seem to sparkle when they're lying on the table, they still need the right setting to bring out their beauty." Adding public speaking to your marketing strategy, with your fine-tuned delivery, will help add sparkle to your business in the coming year.

Leann Anderson is the owner of Anderson Business Resources, a Greeley, Colorado, company specializing in customer service, marketing and high-tech etiquette. E-mail her at