Fear of public speaking… I think you don’t really know what it is, until you have face it. When I first stood in front of a room of 15 people I trembled. But now I can confidently say, that I am OK with speaking in front of 50-100 people. Over that I still get some adrenaline, but I think that’s normal and that it will never go away.
I applied at HackFWD in Berlin so that I could pitch WhoAPI. We met David Bizer in Zagreb during the Startup Srijeda couple of weeks earlier, and he told us that it might be a good idea to apply. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! All I knew was that we had a chance of getting an investment, and that was all that mattered to me at that point. Then one day, I got an email from Mikko Järvenpää, and my heart started pounding!
Congratulations! Having reviewed a large number of applications, we would really like to see you pitch your idea to HackFwd and an audience of tech experts, VCs and press in our Build event in Berlin on Saturday 17.9.
So basically I had to 2 weeks to prepare. What is a pitch? How do I summarize our company in 5 minutes? Or later even in 3 minutes? Most of all, how do I beat the fear of public speaking, and not FREAK OUT when I stand in front of 100 people?!
Lets go back to today, after going through a lot of public speaking in three years, I am here to give you these 3 easy tricks that helped me beat fear of public speaking.
1. “Borrow the spotlight”. At the end of almost every lecture or presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions from the audience. Besides trying to learn something from the speaker, you have the opportunity to “borrow the spotlight”. It’s like grabbing the MIC from Eminem for a minute, so that you could feel the audience.
– Don’t ask really short or really long questions,
– Don’t make it a monolog/statement
– When you are doing this for the first time look straight at the speaker it will help you. Next time, try to look around the audience to “feel” the eyes staring at you, so that you can prove to yourself you will survive this experience
– Extra points for sitting in the first row, and then turn so that you can see the entire audience and the speaker
– Enjoy the adrenaline rush, and relief after you successfully delivered the question, be proud of yourself
According to most studies people’s number one fear is public speaking.
Bonus coming out of “borrowing the spotlight” is that after the talk you can approach the speaker and further expand on the question you asked him. Even if that is Richard Branson or Guy Kawasaki, this approach will work. Even if you want to take pictures with that person, exchange business cards, whatever… And all those are valuable tools in networking with powerful individuals that are not easy to get acquainted with.
2. Practice. There is nothing that can replace practice, and there is nothing that works better than practice! So look for any possibility of public speaking! Even if it has to be a lame place like birthday parties, picnics, sporting events, whatever. Hopefully you will have at least one acquaintance with some experience with this, and he can help you setup a small event where you can speak for 15-60 minutes. Like with everything else it’s better that you start small and short, and then work your way up.
Steve Jobs makes a presentation look effortless, but that polish comes after hours and hours of grueling practice.
I know it’s not much of an advice – “practice”, but it is comforting that you will get better after a while. The fear won’t be the same after you do it 10 times, like when you did it the first time. Also, once you speak in front of 300 people, speaking in front of 50 is a piece of cake. Not to mention pitching in a room in front of 2-3 executives or VC’s.
3. Look forward to something after your speaking. When I first started pitching and lecturing, I forgot about everything else! This made me file like LIFE itself after the pitch doesn’t exist. It’s this pitch, and it’s right now, and nothing else matters. Wrong! When you are first starting out, it’s correct that you should definitely go extra mile to prepare yourself. You simply can’t be overprepared for your first three public speaking experiences.
If you are in a state of absolute certainty, you will deliver a great pitch.
But on that day set yourself up for a nice surprise after you speak. For example, promise yourself that you will have pizza, or a cake, or something else that you usually enjoy indulging in. It has to be something you will really look forward to! Don’t eat chocolate the entire day before, and then “lie to yourself” how exciting it will be to have chocolate again today after you pitch… It really has to be so powerful, different and it has to break your pattern so that it can compete at least in some way to your public speaking. Looking forward to something nice, puts you in a positive and playful state.
I hope this tricks help you as much as they helped me in becoming a great public speaker.
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