Today…a blog speech history lesson.  It is often said, usually by me, that great people give great speeches in a time of great need.  Such is the case of one great person and his quote which we will explore today.  That quote is,“The only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.” 

The 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uttered those immortal words on March 4, 1933 as he took office for the first time.   Roosevelt had begun his term at a low point in American history.  The Depression had sunk the economy, the people, and the world.  Roosevelt chose this moment to tell his constituents that fear was not a condition, but a state of mind.  If Americans wanted to change their lives, their fortunes, and their luck…they had to stop acting defeated.

In other words, how could we conquer our own fears – any fear – whatever it might be?  What he prescribed in that speech was for people to remain optimistic and to believe in themselves and each other.

I bring Mr. Roosevelt and his words up today as we discuss fear.  Not the fear that people faced in the 30s…but modern day fears.   What do you fear most?  Statistics show that the top two things people fear most are death and Public Speaking.  Makes sense.  But, amazingly, death is not at the top of that list.  The number one fear is…survey says…Public Speaking.  Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once wryly commented “Number two is death? Death is number two? Does that sound right? This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket, than doing the eulogy.”

Giving a speech is at the top of everyone’s not to do list, and for good reason.  For some, the words…”I need you to give a thorough presentation to the Board of Directors next week”…can send them scurrying to their analyst.  Those simple words can set hearts to fluttering and palms to sweating.   So, how do we overcome our most basic fear of speaking in front of a crowd of 1 or 1000.  I will now share my answer with you…and it won’t cost a penny.

YourVoiceProfessor’s 5 Tips To A Fear-Free Speech.

Tip #1 Analyze Your Audience & Speech VenueWho is your target audience?  Are they friends, strangers, business associates, old, young…  What is the best way to reach these people?  How many will be there?  Where will the talk be held?  Inside or outside?  Will it be a power point presentation or a lectern/podium speech?  How long will you speak?  Will you use a microphone?

Tip #2 Prepare Your Remarks Determine whether you will be speaking off the cuff, for example, during a Power Point.  Perhaps you will need prepared remarks utilizing a teleprompter, or bullet points to help you stay on topic and message as you speak.  Will this be a casual conversation from a sitting position or more formal, standing up.  Plan accordingly.

Tip #3 Practice, Practice, Practice This is a classic example of the old adage … practice makes perfect.  A speaker who knows his material cold will be less likely to panic, stress out, or draw a blank.  Take the extra time for preparation and you will demonstrate confidence, knowledge, and ease to your audience.

Tip #4 Engage Your Audience Be conversational, natural, yourself.  Let your personality shine as you steer attendees through a complete journey of information and substance.  Remember, less is more.  Don’t babble on, go off-topic, or spend time boring the crowd.  Make your talk brief, exciting, and interesting.

Tip #5 Arrive Early If your speech starts at 8, arrive by 6, or earlier if needed.  Plan your venue driving route, know parking options, and the exact speaking physical location in advance.  Upon arrival, find the person in charge of the event and let them know you have arrived.  Ask for advice on the presentation.  Talk to pertinent technical people who can help you with Power Point or wireless microphone setup.  Get familiar with any computers used or remotes.

Conclusion:  Plan for the worst and hope for the best.  If something fails, like equipment, lighting, microphones, or teleprompters, the audience will blame you, not anyone else.  It’s your show to win or lose.  Get comfortable with the speech, setting, and equipment to make it a happy ending for all.

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BILL PATTI  Founder & President at YourVoiceProfessor  Bill is an award-winning radio and TV announcer, voice-over talent, and college professor … (Read full bio)