According to Reader’s Digest, public speaking is the No. 1 fear in America, so here are some tips that will relieve you of some of your anxiety.
First, as far as I know, Barbara Helleen, who suffered a fatal heart attack while speaking to the Women’s Club of Rosendale, N.Y., Alben W. Barkley, former vice president of the United States, and Arthur MacArthur, father of Douglas MacArthur, are the only people to have died while speaking in public. There have been literally billions of speeches made, yet few fatalities while doing so. Message: It’s safe to make a speech.
Second, remember that if you were to take an old Georgia mule — or, for that matter, a Tennessee or Florida one — and lead him across the stage in front of thousands of people, he would almost go to sleep on the trip. However, if you were to take a thoroughbred race horse across that same stage, he would be jumping all over the place. Message: If you get a little nervous before you speak, just be grateful you’re a thoroughbred and not a mule.
My third suggestion is don’t try to impress the skeptics, the negative ones or the sourpusses of life. As you stand up to speak, whether in front of 10 or 10,000, pick out a smiling face and talk directly to that person. After a few seconds, shift your eyes to the smiling face of another one, and yet another. Continue to do this throughout your talk, and the sourpusses will probably come around, but in the meantime, don’t let them discourage you or affect your attitude.
My final tip is anything you can say to localize your talk — to make it applicable to specific people, groups or situations — will endear you to your audience. These thoughts will help you to survive, and with enough practice, you might even thrive! See you at the top!