How to overcome public speaking anxieties and be visibly confident when conducting an online or offline sales presentation

In The Art of Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie refers to overcoming the fear that paralyzes people when they present.

He asks, “Did you ever notice in looking from a train window that some horses feed near the track and never even pause to look up at the thundering cars, while just ahead at the next railroad crossing a farmer’s wife will be nervously trying to quiet her scared horse as the train goes by? How would you cure a horse that is afraid of cars—graze him in a back-woods lot where he would never see steam-engines or automobiles, or drive or pasture him where he would frequently see the machines?”

Carnegie’s best advice for how to overcome public speaking fears is to face the fear as frequently as you can.

As a new salesperson, you may be the horse being calmed by the farmer’s wife, but a seasoned salesperson is the horse by the tracks that never looks up when a train passes.

The only difference is experience.

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client-managerLet us help you practice your sales presentation by filling your sales funnel with leads that turn into more sales calls.  Sign up with Blitz today for a 30-day free trial.

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Nine steps on how to overcome public speaking fears and nail your next sales presentation

1. Give yourself a break.

You might fear public speaking for any number of reasons (and listing them here sure won’t help you get over them!), but know this: You’re going to make a mistake. No speaker ever has a perfect presentation. Recognizing that your presentation won’t be perfect, no matter how hard you prepare, should help you cut yourself some slack.

Author Paul Arden says, “Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…”

2. Identify the goal.

How do you want your audience to feel when your presentation is over? If you’re presenting to a sales lead, you may want them to feel enthusiastic about your product; as if you’re the solution to their business prayers. If you’re keynoting a conference, you may want the audience to feel inspired and empowered, as if you’re the smartest person in the room. Once you know how you want people to feel, you can develop your presentation toward that goal, which puts less pressure on figuring out what to say, and lets you focus on how to say it.

In Convince Them in 90 Seconds or Less, author Nicholas Boothman writes, “It’s much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what’s important to you about your message and speak from the heart.”

3. Practice, practice, practice.

Presentations rarely ever go the same way every time. A big sales presentation will be interrupted by questions and discussions. If you’re conducting a demo of your product, it’s bound to glitch in the middle at some point, or WebEx might go down. You can’t prepare for those occasions, but you can practice what you know. Confidence in your material goes furthest.

But even practice will result in unplanned changes, and it should, as the mood in the room, or on the phone, changes. “Perfection, in the form of a flawless stream of words delivered with cool composure, is never as persuasive as realness. An impassioned but imperfect speech, which shows you care too much to hide flaws, is far more compelling,” write Charlotte Beers in I’d Rather Be In Charge.

4. Keep it to the point.

“No audience ever complained about a presentation or speech being too short, ” writes Stephen Keague, in his book, The Little Red Handbook of Public Speaking and Presenting. A short presentation that has a meaningful beginning, middle and end, will not only relieve you of stress due to the short duration, but will also keep your leads and/or audience attentive throughout. In sales, a shorter presentation leads to more Q&A time – a valuable portion of the “getting to know you” phase of a sale.

5. Arrive early.

If you’re going into a business to give a sales presentation, don’t just be punctual on the day you’re presenting–go as early as possible. Get an idea of how the room is going to be set up. Is it a board room, or do they have a hall, or a cafeteria that’s been laid out for you? If you’re going to use technology (i.e. a PowerPoint presentation) with your speech, be early to make sure there there are no tech issues, and bring a copy on a flash drive, which is compatible with PC and Mac. Never plan to present something directly from the web when you’re presenting in a new location with unknown wifi speed and connectivity.

6. Learn to breathe.

Shortness of breath comes along with the anxiety package. Taking slow, deep breaths before you say anything will keep you calm, cool, and…you know the rest. A helpful breathing tip: slowly breathe from your stomach and not your chest. Also, if you find yourself getting nervous and using filler words like “um, ” try replacing it with a breath instead.

Making a mistake is not a big deal. “A few mistakes do not a fiasco make,” says Ruth Bonetti, author of Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out. “Professionals throw them off casually but file them away to reinvent as an endearing anecdote in later presentations. Make them part of the performance! Put them behind you and keep going whatever happens.”

7. Create a memorable first line.

“During the first few minutes of your presentation, your job is to assure the audience members that you are not going to waste their time and attention,” write Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger in The Orderly Conversation. Starting a presentation with a joke can break the ice. Starting it with a statement that catches everyone in the room off-guard may hold their attention even longer. But when you’re giving a sales presentation, either method can work.

8. Be true to yourself.

Be yourself. Trying to put on someone else’s suit, and slip on their voice, will only make you come across as disingenuous. Confidence sells. “Naked lions are just as dangerous as elegantly dressed ones,” writes Susan Cain, in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

9. Just do it, and do it over and over again.

“There are a great many “wetless” bathing suits worn at the seashore,” says Dale Carnegie, “but no one ever learns to swim in them. To plunge is the only way.”

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client-managerLet us help you practice your sales presentation by filling your sales funnel with leads that turn into more sales calls.  Sign up with Blitz today for a 30-day free trial.

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Will learning how to overcome public speaking fears and give a dynamite speech attract new clients? You bet it will. In the words of Mark Twain, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous, and those who are liars. It’s OK to be nervous, but it’s no OK to let it stop you from growing professionally.

Do you have any suggestions on how to overcome public speaking anxiety? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!