Facing your Fear - Speaking in Front of An Audience

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I walked out on stage and the spotlight sparked up, shining directly on me at the podium. People immediately stopped talking and just looked at me, as I stood there all alone on stage... this was it.”

We’ve all heard the usual statistics about the fear of public speaking, in that people fear it even more than they fear death! A little harsh I think but there you go.

Personally, I can understand that feeling of fear when it comes to public speaking. The shakes, the dry mouth, the sweaty palms and of course, the absolute dread of freezing on stage, in front of everyone!!

In fact, why would you even consider public speaking or making a presentation to a large group at all? Well, I can totally empathise. But the thing is, people who master a fear of public speaking more often than not develop stronger career opportunities, (Recent stats suggest fear of public speaking has 10% impairment on your wages & 15% impairment on your promotion opportunities). People who possess these skills are perceived as confident and assured, the kind of people you want representing your business. Having that skill can give a great impression of what you as an organisation are about. Equally, sometimes the fear of being seen as the opposite, of being awful on stage, and giving the ‘wrong’ image is the single thing that holds us back from public speaking or giving that presentation to a group. The dreaded ‘fear factor’ takes over and we hold back, not moving forward and secretly envious of those that seem to make public speaking look easy.

I remember a particular occasion when, in my role as managing director of our events company, I decided it was time for me to face my fears of public speaking (how hard could it be?) and do the introduction and welcome presentation to the audience at one of the largest awards ceremonies organised by my events team. I had often addressed group staff presentations at various times during the year and didn’t have a problem with it, so surely it wasn’t that different. However, as the guests arrived (it was a black tie and formal event) I became more nervous and realised it was significantly different. As cliché as it sounds, my palms started getting sweaty, the mouth started to go dry, and I even thought of changing the running order of the night at the last minute to avoid me having to stand on stage!

In any case, with hands shaking (I mean literally shaking!) I decided to push on as 400 people in black tie and formal dress took their seats. I walked out on stage and the spotlight sparked up, shining directly on me at the podium.

People immediately stopped talking and just looked at me, as I stood there all alone on stage...this was it. It was at that exact moment, I decided to have a fully-fledged discussion with my inner voice.

‘What the hell are you going to do now, Tony, everyone’s looking at you! For the love of God man, say something!’. And finally, ‘what if I freeze, right now, what would happen’?

All this was happening while I stood there on stage, under the spotlight. It felt like 10 minutes had already passed, but actually it was about 3 seconds, and then I simply said to myself, ‘Right then, here goes’ and launched with, ‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, you’re all very welcome to tonight’s award ceremony…..’ and I was away. I finished the speech I had rehearsed for a more than a month. It was only a four or five minute speech, talking about the awards, thanking guests, judges, participants and so on and at the end of it, rather than trying to rush off stage, I found I actually wished I had more to say! I was starting to enjoy it. I noticed early that nobody threw their bread rolls at me, no on shouted ‘get off’ and funnily enough, during the course of that evening, so many people I had never met before, came up to me to introduce themselves, and either talked business or just to say hi, or compliment me and our team on hosting such a wonderful event.

It was both a nerve wracking and rewarding experience. I realised I wasn’t dead, I wasn’t terrible and I could only get better. Making speeches in front of people is arguably even more important today as communications are vital for impression and credibility and confidence. If you get the chance to develop your public speaking or presentation skills I would urge you to go for it. Nobody has ever regretted improving their ability to stand in front of a crowd to speak with confidence!

Tony Cantwell - Chief Executive - CMG Professional Training

Leading Without Authority - 7 Traits of Successful Leaders

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Leaders advance in their careers because they are leaders before being given the title. If you, no matter what your current title, can create a stellar reputation for yourself throughout your organisation, you will have an exciting future ahead of you.

However, leadership is not a natural skill for everyone, you need to adapt yourself and become skilled in certain areas, but what are they?! What makes people listen to you if they don’t HAVE to?

We’ve compiled a short list of the key leadership traits that apply at ANY level, to help you gain commitment and "buy-in" from colleagues, and to help you further your leadership capabilities as you progress in your career. 

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1. Passion!!

Be passionate about your ideas! How many times have you found yourself watching something that you have no knowledge about, but you kept watching simply because the people discussing it are so passionate about it! This is because passion is a quality people are attracted to. It creates positive energy that surrounds you, and when you show that passion about others it makes them feel good about themselves. People will gravitate toward you because of this.

2. Sit down, be Humble

Accept that arrogance is unacceptable. If people don’t like you, people won’t help you! Maintain a confident and positive attitude, but be humbled by facts and skill.

3. Accept responsibility

Until you accept responsibility for your actions or failures, it will be very difficult for you to develop self-respect or even have the respect of others. A responsible person makes mistakes, but when they do, they take responsibility and make it right.

4. Know the importance of empathetic listening

As a leader, if you already rank high in empathy, you gain a genuine professional advantage. If not, empathetic listening is a skill worth developing. Just remember empathy is not sympathy. Whereas sympathy is "feeling for someone," empathy is "feeling as someone."

5. Develop your emotional intelligence (EQ)

This one is huge. Remember, not everyone is a good communicator.  Sometimes you have to be the one to draw the ideas/thoughts out of others.  Although you might think this is a natural skill, EQ is something that you can develop. Pay attention to how you are feeling / behaving, practice responding not "reacting", regularly question your own opinions and learn to look at yourself objectively. People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust quickly with colleagues.

6. Create a positive chain reaction

We are all part of an emotional chain-reaction effect. As a leader without authority, you can influence and inspire your team by understanding that emotions drive performance. Worry, stress, and fear decrease physical and mental energy and impair mental agility. Positive emotions — optimism, enthusiasm, gratitude — increase energy, learning and motivation.

7. Ethics

Dispassionately choosing your moral framework sounds like an odd business success driver. Very few choose to go off the path to corruption or excess, it is usually an incremental slide. Making a stand early may save you, and others, a world of hurt and is a more sustainable life and business choice. Often it’s as simple as doing what you say you will do.

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Remember, there is no quick fix solution. Real leadership qualities are not something that can be shown in a day or a week and then abandoned, the key to gaining the same trust and respect of leaders in senior roles is consistency! Get into the habits above and demonstrate them consistently, and people will start coming to you more and more. The value of your opinions and ideas will continue to rise, your leadership qualities will be undeniable.

If you are looking to further your career and gain the key skills required, be sure to check out our suite of management courses, specifically designed to give you the practical day-to-day skills required to take your career to the next level.