Sunday, May 22, 2011

A smart way to conquer a fear of public speaking

I've been researching a story for Smart Company and have been introduced to a very interesting guy called Justin Menkes who has written a book called Better Under Pressure about dealing with the realities of constant work stress. He wrote an interesting blog for HBR on How Stress Can Boost Your Performance. I have to excerpt this great little nugget of information that relates to the benefits of getting over your fears by working with small, supportive audiences. (This is exactly what my media training is about.)

Menkes says: "One simple exercise involves memorising something, be it a poem or the 50 states, and then reciting it before friends at a dinner party, while encouraging them to taunt you if you make mistakes. At first, you are more likely to have missteps in this context. Eventually, you will find that you can do the exercise faster, with more accuracy, in front of an audience than when you do it by yourself. Toastmasters uses the same concept, teaching people to do something they often fear — public speaking — by first exposing them repeatedly to speaking in a small, supportive environment before putting them in front of larger and larger groups."

So this is the way to improve performance and accuracy, get over that fear of making the mistakes, make the most of a small, supportive group (in my case me, my cameraman and hopefully another member of my client's senior staff) and nail that big speech, TV appearance, presentation or interview. In so many sessions I run, there is chiding, laughing and arrrrghghgh moments, but they never last. We just get on with the job of getting you ready for the main event.

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