Great Business Ideas: Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking

many entrepreneurs have to be the company spokesperson, whether they like it or not. While public speaking can be terrifying, knowing how to make a clear, concise presentation can mean the difference between financial success and failure for many small firms.

You might want to join a group that has helped more than three million people around the world overcome their fear of speaking during the past seventy-five years.

Toastmasters International, founded by Ralph C. Smedley in the basement of the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, is that group. This self-help organization for people who feel nervous about speaking in public has 8,100 chapters around the world. In recent years, Toastmasters, with about 170,000 worldwide members, has helped many technically oriented people feel at ease in front of a crowd by using its positive, peer-counseling approach.

Well-known companies, including Bergen Brunswig, Fluor Corp., and Rockwell International, host Toastmaster meetings in their offices to make it easy for managers to attend. Joining Toastmasters is easy and affordable. Most chapters are listed in the telephone book. Annual dues are $36; chapters usually charge another $16 for materials.

If you can’t get to Toastmasters or afford to hire a speaking coach, there are some excellent books on the topic.

  • Effective Presentation Skills: A Practical Guide for Better Speaking, by Steve Mandel (Crisp Publications; 2000), features a simple workbook format. It begins with tips for reducing anxiety, including deep breathing and visualization techniques, and ends with a checklist to help you prepare for a presentation.
  • Managing Your Mouth: An Owner’s Manual for Your Most Important Business Asset, by Robert L. Genua (American Management Assoc.; 1993), is a lively, practical guide to becoming a good speaker and a good listener. Genua, vice president and general manager of a patent information service, provides great tips, including when saying nothing is better than saying the wrong thing.
  • Speak and Grow Rich, by Dottie and Lilly Walters (Prentice Hall Press; 1997), is a classic for professional speakers and wannabes. If you find that you actually love speaking and want to pursue it as a career, buy a copy. The Walters, a mother-daughter team who run a speakers bureau, explain in detail how to establish yourself as a professional speaker, including how to market your services and command big fees.
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