Vail Valley: Speak up with confidence |

Vail Valley: Speak up with confidence

The fear of speaking in public for some people is actually greater than their fear of dying.

Just the thought of having to stand up in front of a group of people or participate verbally in a classroom or department meeting gives many people stomachaches, hives, and cold sweats. Some people have told me that they actually feel like they will vomit. Their nervousness becomes so intense they can hear and feel their heartbeat pounding in their ears, and the room becomes eerily dark.

The fear of public speaking is so great for some folks that they’ll lose focus on the meeting and what others are saying simply out of fear that they know their turn is coming and they will have to speak out loud. Some people deeply want to participate, but their self-confidence and dread over actually speaking in front of a group stops them from contributing at any level, even though they have great insights to share.

So here are some tips for all of you who may be facing the same challenge:

First, think smaller not bigger. If you get flustered and scared at the thought of talking to a room full of people, don’t worry initially about contributing at a major level – just find a way to add one or two small thoughts.

You might even ask a question instead of talking about a hot topic or subject. When someone answers your question, say something like, “That’s interesting, can you tell me more?” Take small steps and you will become a little more comfortable each time.

Second, plan and prepare as well as you can. Being prepared helps take the pressure off and will ease your mind when speaking. If you are going to be in a group for a meeting, anticipate at least three questions on the topic you are presenting. Write out and rehearse your responses to these questions.

Planning and preparing also means rehearsing your message or presentation. No matter how long or how brief, take the time to say it out loud at least four times before you have to present. Look in the mirror when doing this so you can hear and see yourself. This is a tried and true practice Many speakers still use this method of rehearsing.

The third quick tip to share is what Tony Jeary – “Mr. Presentation” – calls creating a breathing space. After you have been introduced, thank the group for having you there and before you start speaking acknowledge someone in the room or at the table and thank them for attending as well.

Ask the audience or group a question about what they would like to get out of the meeting. This takes the eyeballs off of you and puts the focus on someone else, creating a breathing space for you where you have now gotten just a few words out, heard what you sounded like, took a breath, and boosted your confidence. It is an awesome technique and one I use all the time.

If this sounds like you or you would like a little more help with your public speaking send me an e-mail at and make it a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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