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How to kick the fear of speaking in public

6 Tips from a public speaking World Champion.

The shaky voice, the dry mouth, the imagination running wild with the worst possible scenarios. The angst that comes with public speaking is a familiar feeling for many.

Growing up Verity Price suffered terribly from fear of public speaking, so much so that she would bunk school if it was her turn to read the Bible in Assembly. Price is now is the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, the first African in history and sixth women in the world to have ever won the competition in 80 years.

Below she shares 6 tips to help anyone wanting to face their own fears of speaking in public, whether its small or large group.

Speaking is a learn by doing process

Speaking is not something you can read about in theory and then hope to magically improve. You need to keep standing up to deliver speeches to slowly build your confidence. I am a huge advocate for the public speaking organisation called Toastmasters. The program is designed to help people overcome their fear of speaking in public. It provides a safe place to find your voice and learn how to speak with confidence.

Picture: Verity Price, photo by Marike Herselman

Be clear on the message you want to get across

Try to phrase it in 10 words or less in a way that is easy to remember. Often people get lost listening to a speech because the speaker is trying to put across more than one message. It can be very challenging to drill down to the one thing you are trying to communicate and then just focus on that. I find that sitting down before I write a speech and getting clear on my purpose for speaking, helps me to distil a message statement. I then write my stories and content to support that message.

Spend time structuring your speech

Often people are so focused on their content, and they forget to work on how they will ensure it flows for the audience. Take time to plan how you will grab attention when you start. Then focus on only three to five points to get across your message and always remember to work on a powerful conclusion.

I find it helps to think of a speech is a like a hamburger. The bun is your introduction and conclusion and is what gets the audience interested in biting in. The actual burger is your content. A great burger is never overfilled—it has just enough for people to enjoy but not overwhelm them. That is why focusing on less than five points that all support a single message, makes the world of difference.

Find your natural speaking voice

Type up your speech but then practice it out loud so you can find your natural speaking voice. We tend to write very differently to how we speak so always practice off the page to speak in the way you would to a friend. The trick to great speeches is in the rewriting of them. Your first draft should help you to structure your thoughts, but as you practice what you want to say you should be able to rewrite your speech in your conversational voice and start adding small nuances that improve your message. This is what will allow the audience to connect to you.

Remember the audience

Always consider the audience you are presenting to and what their needs might be. Are there relevant humour points or references you can include that they will appreciate? If you prepare with them in mind, you should get a warm reception. Even in the online space, consider what is important to your audience, can you ask rhetorical questions that will keep them engaged? Can you keep adding in comments that make them feel included in your presentation? The more you consider and include the audience, the better your message will land.

Practice, practice, practice!

If you haven’t done so already, join a local Toastmasters club to practice in front of your peers. The more you practice before the time, the better you set yourself up for success. Practice with energy and imagine your audience really is enjoying listening to you. Film yourself for online presentations so that you get comfortable connecting beyond the camera. Practice with a mentor so you can refine what you're doing. Practice until your speech is internalized and you can speak from the heart.

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