Photo credit: Debby Wong
At a time when the art of self-promotion is growing in importance and ways to broadcast our messages through social media stories are constantly evolving, more and more entrepreneurs are embracing these opportunities and benefiting from the results.
But what do you do if the very thought of a live video or speaking in front of an audience is simply too terrifying? In my experience, the fear of public-speaking prevents many women from stepping up and results in them often handing over the stage and that opportunity to someone else. Whatever underlies this fear, whether it is that of criticism, not being taken seriously or simply forgetting your words in front of an expectant audience, if you’re scared of something, it isn’t an indicator of your abilities, or that shouldn’t do it but in fact, only that you need to develop your skills and confidence. The more confident and prepared you are – the less afraid you will be.
It is easy to forget, when we listen to a great speaker, that they had to start somewhere. What we don’t see and appreciate is the investment of time, energy and effort they must have put in to become what they are.
My advice is to take one proactive step at a time. Start by saying yes to a speaking opportunity, whether it be a one-minute introduction at a networking meeting or a longer presentation in front of a large audience. Plan what you will say, tailor it to suit the listeners and seek support from an experienced professional speaking coach who will help hone your skills and shape your presentation. Finally, there is no substitute for practice – in front of a mirror or with your family playing the role of the audience or even just to your pet. The key is to practice, practice, practice.
On the day of the presentation, reciting some good old-fashioned tongue twisters will warm-up your voice and improve annunciation. Breathing exercises just before you step onto the stage will help settle any nerves and remembering to speak slower than usual will help you deliver your message coherently and confidently, whilst also giving your audience the time to take in what you’re saying.
A good speech can change hearts and minds. It can educate, inform and inspire an audience to act and instil a real determination and commitment to affect lasting change. From names like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey to Swedish 15-year-old schoolgirl environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize, women all around the world are using their voices and making a difference. From across the generations, they’re leading the way. And we all have our own part to play. As women running our own businesses, we have powerful messages waiting to be heard. We owe it to ourselves to shed our fears, step up into the limelight and tell our stories and there has never been a better time than the present. The time is now.