Weak Communication Skills Will Stall Your Career Success

🚀 3 unexpected ways to overcome a fear of public speaking - Issue #2

Overcoming my fear of public speaking changed the trajectory of my career. I never would have achieved the success that I did if I hadn’t conquered that fear and finally felt comfortable standing up in front of a room full of colleagues and presenting to them.

Speaking at conferences and interviewing with reporters also increased my visibility and built my personal brand. Endless hours of practice helped me overcome my anxiety on stage and made it much easier for me to present to angel investors when I was raising money for my startup.

But for most of my life, I used to fear and hate public speaking.

Getting up in front of people to talk? No thanks! My palms would start to sweat and my heart would race.

But, I actually enjoy it now. No, I really do.

I find it easier to get up in front of an audience to speak than to try to make small talk with people at networking events. Maybe someday I will come to enjoy that as well. But, for now, it’s not my thing. Large audiences or 1-on-1 meetings are much easier for me.

Why does it matter?

So, why does this matter? Why should you care about becoming comfortable with public speaking?

If you want your career to take off, learn how to communicate well and present with confidence.

If you want to build your own business, you had better become very comfortable with speaking to potential customers, partners, and investors.

If you want to remain right where you are, never get noticed, and never get promoted or become a successful entrepreneur, then stay seated, keep your mouth closed, and never take the stage.

Warren Buffett once told a class of business students that he would pay anyone in the room $100,000 for 10% of their future earnings. If they were good communicators, he would raise his bid by 50% because public speaking would make his ‘investment’ more valuable (source).

But, most of us are afraid of public speaking. So, how can you overcome your fear and boost your self-confidence before an important meeting, presentation, or talk?

If you are interested in changing your life and skyrocketing your career, here are 3 nontraditional ways to overcome your fear of public speaking and actually find a way to enjoy it:

1. The #upfront movement

Steve Baty introducing his #upfront guests

Steve Baty introducing his #upfront guests

  • #upfront is something new that I just discovered as I was preparing to give a talk at Design Leadership 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.

  • A small group is invited to join a speaker on stage and quietly sit on a couch or chairs. They do not have to speak at all. This is key.

  • It allows people to get a taste of what it is like to be on stage in front of the audience, without the fear and pressure of giving a talk.

  • It increases diversity on stage by giving more people a chance to participate, become comfortable with the experience, and eventually become speakers themselves. All too often, a small population of people is invited to speak at events and conferences. This changes that.

  • Learn more about #upfront and look for upcoming conferences where you could have a chance to participate and join a speaker on the stage! I only wish this had existed many years ago.

2. Karaoke, believe it or not

If I remember correctly, this was “White Wedding”

If I remember correctly, this was “White Wedding”

  • Yes, I said karaoke. My previous colleagues know exactly what I’m talking about. They were there when I was introduced to karaoke clubs while I was living in China.

  • Talk about combining your worst fears into one swirling mass of anxiety. Getting up in front of people. Public speaking. And worse, actually trying to sing in front of an audience with a mic in your hand. Wow. Yeah, it can feel overwhelming.

  • But, I think that is what made me break through it all. It’s kind of the same as phobia treatment. Fear spiders? Play with a big tarantula. Fear snakes? Wrap one around your neck.

  • It is such a sensory overload that you will never be afraid of just speaking in front of an audience again. Giving a presentation will seem tame compared to singing in front of people. You’ve already conquered one of the biggest fears that you can imagine (at least in my case).

3. Acting

  • What do I mean by acting? Basically, my onstage persona isn’t the usual “me.”

  • I take on a role when I’m in front of a large audience. I embrace it. My persona loves the spotlight. My persona enjoys interacting with the audience and getting them to laugh.

  • The separation of self from this acting persona helps remove the anxiety from the situation. It’s not “me” up there. It’s “him”. If he bombs, it wasn’t me that bombed.

  • I know that sounds a little like having Dissociative identity disorder. But, it’s just acting.

  • Do you think those folks in Hollywood are really like the characters in their movies? Nope, and you don’t have to be either.

So there you have it; a few ways that I overcame decades of fear of public speaking and one new way that you can try (i.e., #upfront). For those that know me, you know that I love being on stage now.

So, test them out for yourself. Become comfortable with public speaking and you’ll experience the positive impact it has on your career development. Heck, you could even invite me to come to karaoke with you. I’ll come, as long as you are buying the drinks.

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