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Five Tips to Squash Public-Speaking Fears

You can boost biz by giving seminars, but make sure to get over your fear of public speaking first! Here's how.

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You know that conducting seminars and giving speeches are greatways for you to boost your credibility and generate clients andreferrals, but you're scared to death of public speaking. Takecomfort in this: You're definitely not alone. Forty millionAmericans are so terrified of speaking to a group that they'ddo almost anything to avoid it. In fact, according to an oft-citedstudy done by Brushkin-Goldring, more people said they fearedpublic speaking than feared death.

Why do people clam up? The primary reason, according to LilyanWilder, author of 7 Steps to Fearless Speaking and aconsultant to broadcast correspondents at ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, isthat many people dread feeling isolated when they are the focalpoint in the room. "If you're seated--especially ifyou're behind a table--you have protection. You're on anequal basis with the people you're speaking to around thetable," says Wilder. "But when you stand up, thepressure's on: You've got to be the leader. You've gotto show the way. Then you suddenly feel the palpitations, you getshort of breath, your hands may shake and knees buckle."

How can you overcome the fear of public speaking to accomplishyour marketing and publicity goals? Here are five tips:

1. Do what you fear--and do it often. If your problem isspeaking in public, tackle it head on. Try to speak at as manypublic venues as you possibly can until you dominate that fear.When you do, you'll find that people are really there to hearfrom you and learn from what you have to say.

2. Take stock of your assets. On a sheet of paper, writedown the reasons why you think your message should be heard and whyyou're the best person to communicate that information. Thisexercise will boost your confidence when you feel mostintimidated.

3. Start in a low-risk environment. Build your confidenceby speaking regularly to smaller, more sympathetic audiences beforetaking on a high-stakes speech.

4. Put your fear in perspective. Which is more terrifyingto you--giving a speech in front of 50 people or not fulfillingyour business or career goals? How will giving in to this fearaffect your salary or sales levels? Put a dollar amount on what youstand to lose if you allow the fear of public speaking to hold youback. Is it worth the price?

5. Read books that "pump" you up. Need a majorconfidence boost before you give your next talk? These books offerthe encouragement and practical tips you need to speak with poiseand persuasion:

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Speaking in Public WithConfidence by Laurie Rozakis
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by DaleCarnegie

Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service ofThe Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that"positions" clients as leading experts in theirfield--through ghost--written articles and books for publication.Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust ServiceCorp. and several professional advisory and management consultingfirms nationwide.

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