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Matt Abrahams

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business, author of Think Faster, Talk Smarter and Podcaster

Read more about Matt Abrahams

Help! I’m the boss and I am still terrified of public speaking!

Tips and techniques to move past fear of public speaking and become an effective communicator.
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Effective communication is critical for successful management. As bosses, managers and leaders, you’re often called upon to deliver messages that are persuasive, inspiring and sometimes difficult.

But what if you’re grappling with the anxiety that often comes with public speaking and interpersonal communication? You needn’t worry. There’s hope.

By leveraging specific tactics and techniques paired with repetition, reflection and feedback, you can bolster your confidence and manage your anxiety.

Here’s a guide tailored for bosses to boost calm and increase effectiveness in public speaking.

Get excited, not calm

Forget the age-old advice of calming your nerves before a presentation. Instead, get excited!

When you feel anxious, your body is already in a high-arousal state, akin to excitement.

Research shows that simply stating ‘I’m excited!’ can help reframe this negative emotion into something positive, improving your overall performance.

Leverage structure to help

Rather than list facts and ramble, you can be more clear and concise while also better remembering your points.

By utilising a structure – a logical connection of ideas –  you can increase the likelihood that your message is not just heard, but also understood and acted upon.

A wonderfully flexible structure is ‘What? So What? Now What?’ This is a powerful framework for many types of communication like providing an update, giving feedback, drafting an email, etc.

What?: Start by stating your idea, service, product or proposal. Be clear and concise.

So What?: Explain why this information is relevant and important to those you are communicating with. This is where you can include data, stories, or emotional appeals to elaborate on the importance of the ‘what’.

Now What?: This is your call to action. What do you want your team or audience to do next?

This structure offers a quick yet comprehensive way to articulate your thoughts and  provides a clear starting and ending point – a roadmap – that allows you to feel more confident in your message.

 

When you feel anxious, your body is already in a high-arousal state, akin to excitement. Research shows that simply stating ‘I’m excited!’ can help reframe this negative emotion into something positive, improving your overall performance

The power of counter-intuitive techniques

Sometimes, counter-intuitive methods offer the best solutions for managing anxiety.

Before you go on stage, try tensing all your muscles and then releasing them.

This action triggers your relaxation response, preparing your body for a more relaxed performance.

Volunteer to go first or ask initial questions.

While seemingly counterintuitive for a nervous speaker to speak sooner or more frequently, research suggests this act of being brave actually helps you become braver for when you present.

Use technology wisely

The digital age offers a plethora of tools to aid public speaking.

From teleprompters on smartphones to virtual reality setups for practice, technology can be your ally.

These tools not only make the process more interactive but can also serve as your virtual confidence booster.

While seemingly counterintuitive for a nervous speaker to speak sooner or more frequently, research suggests this act of being brave actually helps you become braver for when you present

Final quick tips:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare: Knowing your material inside and out is the first step toward confidence
  • Practice makes perfect: Use various methods like mirror practice or digital recording to hone your skills
  • Pause and breathe: Taking brief pauses can help you collect your thoughts and also adds emphasis to your message

Leaders, you hold the power to inspire and enact change. Communication is your tool to achieve this.

While it’s normal to feel anxious, remember that confidence is a skill, not a trait.

Equip yourself with these best practices to become the confident, effective communicator you were meant to be.

If you enjoyed this, read: How to improve cross-cultural communications in the workplace

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Author Profile Picture
Matt Abrahams

Lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business, author of Think Faster, Talk Smarter and Podcaster

Read more from Matt Abrahams
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