Communications Ideas Leadership Success Secrets Video Conferencing

Online Public Speaking Fear: How to Overcome It & Soar

If you find yourself afraid of an upcoming online meeting where you need to speak up, you’re not alone. This is a natural tendency borne from the common fear of public speaking. In fact, the fear of public speaking is one of the top fears today, but you can still do something about it.

You hear over and over again that practice makes perfect, and this also applies to public speaking. Any sort of public speaking – even when you speak out in your group of friends online or in Zoom meetings – can ease you into the unexpected public speaking role.

Here are some actions you can take to reduce any fear of public speaking:

  1. Be prepared. In most public speaking situations, you can use notes. Make sure you organize your notes long before the meeting and break them down into an organized list where you highlight two or three key talking points. (That’s the secret: Just start with three key points.) If you can’t use notes, simply make it a point to practice your speech until you feel comfortable saying it in front of others. You might still have some fear, but being well prepared can definitely combat this feeling.
  1. Don’t expect perfection. It’s important not to expect that your contribution will be perfect. In fact, chances are your audience doesn’t expect perfection either. They understand that everyone makes mistakes and they, themselves, may be afraid of public speaking. You might skip over a part of your talk or stutter a little, and these are all natural human mistakes.
  1. Speak in small groups. If you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of a large group, then start small. Practice on small groups and ask for feedback afterwards. You can have a confidential feedback form, or you can just ask participants what they thought of your speech. In fact, pretend every group is a small group even if they are huge in numbers.
  1. Have a backup plan. It’s always advisable to have a backup plan in life situations; public speaking is no exception. Think about what you might want to say if you get stuck. If your mind goes blank, take a deep breath and start your backup plan. Chances are you’ll find yourself back on track before you know it.
  1. Relax. It’s important to get yourself into the right mindset before you have to speak. Consider starting a ritual that you find relaxing in order to keep your mind off of your fears. You could breathe deeply for a minute, meditate or do a crossword puzzle. Whatever it is, just choose an activity that helps you relax.

The Audience Can Be Scary

The audience is the whole reason you’re afraid to make your speech, but it helps to know that they’re not scary. Look at them as actually being on your side. Keep a positive attitude because chances are good that the audience wants you to succeed in your speech.

In the end, it’s important to remember that even if you do mess up, it’s not the end of the world. As long as you’ve prepared yourself well enough and have a backup plan in place, you’ll be able to pick yourself back up if you trip up anywhere in your speech.

After your presentation, it’s important to take notes and critique yourself on how it went. I debrief with 3 simple questions:

  1. What did I do that I liked?
  2. What did I do that I didn’t like?
  3. If I had to do it all over again, what would I do differently?

Applying the answers from those disarming questions – in that order – has helped me improve tremendously over the years. It has helped me assess situations long after the emotion of the event has passed.

Whether it’s online or in-person, as you continue to practice your public speaking skills, you’ll get better and more comfortable in time. Just go all in!

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Communications Ideas Leadership Success Secrets Video Conferencing

How to Become an Effective Listener Online

Effective communication is one of the keys to success, and when you’re good at it, people notice. During our days of Zoom/Skype meetings, it becomes an even more critical skill to master so we stay in the game.

Most people think that strengthening communication skills involves developing persuasive speech and conversational skills, but what you may not realize is just how important effective listening can be.

Without an effective listener, none of your conversational skills would matter. This is because your points – no matter how clear – still wouldn’t be heard or understood.

Remember that listening is a full 50% of the communication effort so it’s worth your time to develop this precious skill, too.

Here are some techniques to build your listening skills:

  1. Fight the urge to speak. Sometimes when you’re engaged in a heated conversation, you start to concentrate on what you’re going to say next. You may even be tempted to open your mouth before the other person is finished. Make the extra effort to keep your lips sealed until they’re through talking. And learn the art of volley in online meeting conversations.
    • While they’re speaking, don’t worry about what you’re going to say or how you’re going to say it. Instead, focus on the words and body language of the other person.
  1. Look interested. Your nonverbal communication skills are important while you’re listening. If you’re looking disinterested and uncaring, the person trying to communicate with you will likely pick up on these subtle hints. Looking off-camera is obvious to everyone on the video meeting. In fact, the presenter may be flustered or less likely to share their thoughts. Makes sense, right?
    • Engage with the person talking. Make eye contact with the pinhole camera, and nod your head or smile. Let your conversation partner know that their points are coming across to you.
  1. Repeat the highlights. One way to literally tell your conversation partner that they’re effectively communicating is to simply restate their points. You can repeat key phrases in an affirming tone. You can even give them a quick summary of what they just said in your own words.
    • Avoid sharing your opinions when repeating their concepts or ideas. At this point, you simply want to communicate that you’ve completely understood their meaning.  
  1. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your conversation partner to elaborate on what they’re saying. If you need further information, ask for it. The important thing is that you understand what they’re trying to get across.
  1. Be patient. It’s also important to maintain patience, especially when working with people who may be shy or may not have the ability to communicate very well. If you’re not patient, you may end the conversation prematurely or scare off your conversation partner.
  1. Follow your partner’s lead. Being an effective listener doesn’t mean that your only job is to listen. You can certainly add to the conversation, too. At the same time, you don’t want to overpower the conversation. Add your input when they ask for it or when they’ve finished their point.

Remember that practice makes perfect. After you’ve had an important conversation, ask yourself what you remember from the conversation. Write down the details if necessary. Did you allow the other person to do most of the talking?

When you fight the urge to dominate conversations, you’ll be able to truly hear what people have to say!

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