Around 75% of people in the US fear public speaking. Despite this fact, only 8% seek professional help for this problem, despite the fact that it can have a significant effect on their wages and chances of promotion. Like all phobias, however, the fear of public speaking can be overcome through exposure. As some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs have demonstrated, hardly anyone is a natural-born orator, and very few actually enjoy giving a facing a crowd. However, communication apprehension can be overcome, and it begins with a determination to make a change.
Frequently recognized for his overwhelming success and collection of businesses under the Virgin umbrella, entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is considered a dynamic speaker who often harnesses the power of storytelling in his talks. Despite being a highly solicited speaker, however, he continues to be plagued by nerves when preparing and giving speeches. His fear of public speaking started at a young age; he can recall literally breaking out in a sweat when he was called upon to perform for his classmates at school. In order to remain calm during orations, Branson took his inspiration from Winston Churchill.
The former British Prime Minister stated that there is no secret to becoming a great orator other than to literally practice, practice, and practice some more. The more you know your subject matter, he states, the more likely you are to enter a room with the confidence and aplomb you need to make an authentic connection with your audience. Branson also relies on another technique: that of imagining that his audience is actually a small group of people he has invited to a dinner party. This practice puts him in the required mood to connect with his audience comfortably and feel like he can express himself without feeling judged or criticized.
Former veteran and current New York Times best-selling author, JR Martinez, has proven that no difficulty in life is too large to overcome. Martinez joined the army in 2002, and was caught in an explosion during his service in Iraq in 2003. After healing from severe burns, he had to face the same stark reality as may other war veterans who struggle to find their place in the world after their tours are over. Soldiers who have experienced a disability do have some degree of aid, but VA disability compensation, and other aids such as SSDI and SSI benefits stretch further in some states than others.
For many families, government aid is simply not enough to live on. Veterans eager to obtain employment may also struggle, since some employers see years of military service as a gap in their resume. For Martinez, public speaking was a shining light that enabled him to get through his recovery. He discovered his love for communication during his hospitalization, when he was asked to speak to another burn patient. Martinez began visiting patients daily, sharing his story and giving others hope. Upon realizing the impact that his words could have on others, he felt inspired to motivate and help as many people as he could, and he is now a highly solicited speaker on the motivational talk scene.
With a net worth of over 100 billion USD, Buffet is often referred to as the ultimate entrepreneur. However, similarly to Richard Branson, he hated the very thought of having to face the public, despite knowing that public speaking was a vital skill for anyone wishing to succeed in business. Buffet was extremely introverted, struggling to even introduce himself to others. He signed up for a Dale Carnegie speaking course, and, once he graduated, chose to challenge himself further by deciding to become a teacher.
He realized that public speaking isn’t a skill you learn then set aside. Instead, it needs to be practiced consistently if you want to maintain and improve your confidence and perfect your technique. Buffet often says that the most important course that he has ever completed is said speaking course, since of all the courses he has undertaken, this one had the biggest impact on his success.
Regardless of the path you select, public speaking is crucial to your success. Whether you’re a salesperson trying to get people to follow your advice, or you’re a management leader wanting others to follow you in business, confidence during speeches is essential in order to inform and persuade effectively. If Richard Branson, RJ Martinez, and Warren Buffett can teach you one thing, it is that the first step to becoming a successful public speaker is getting out there and facing an audience. There is no way around the initial discomfort and nerves you may feel, but the only sure-fire way to diminish your fears is to face them.