Joe Vitale Interviews Sandra Zimmer of The
Self Expression Center / Self-Expression.com

Speaking is one of the keys to success in today’s world, yet it’s also one of the greatest fears of all time. I asked Sandra Zimmer, owner of The Self-Expression Center, and author of a forthcoming book on the subject, for some advice.

Q: Why is the ability to speak important to someone in business?

A: In order for people to want to do business with you, they have to experience you as credible, capable and trustworthy. They have to buy into who you are before they can buy into your product or service. Because this can only happen through some kind of interchange with you, it is essential that you can speak with ease to others both one to one and to groups.

For most people speaking to groups is the most difficult form of communication. Speaking to groups gives you the opportunity to communicate your message to many people at once, increasing your impact, possibilities for business, and ultimately your bottom line. Learning to put your message across to groups is empowering to you. It develops self-mastery and self-confidence like nothing else can. Without the ability to speak, you hit a glass ceiling past which you can not rise in business communications.

Q: What are 5 things that will help you give a great talk?

A: 1. Realize that a great talk does not have to be perfect. It is more important to be genuine than to be perfect. Give yourself permission to be yourself. Build your presentation style on being who you are rather than trying to create an image or illusion of perfection.

2. Organize your thoughts using a Idea Web. An idea web is a picture of all your ideas connected by lines. Write the main idea you wish to communicate in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Circle it. Now draw lines from that circle out to major points you wish to make about that main idea. Circle those points. It will look like you have two to five branches off of your main circle. Finally draw lines to supporting ideas, stories and examples from each major point. Circle each supporting point. You now have a picture of your entire talk. You can write your talk from this Idea Web. Or you can use the web as your notes for an impromptu presentation.

3. Begin your talk with something that is so intriguing that the audience will be drawn in to you. You can use a personal story, an anecdote that demonstrates your point or a startling fact. The more dramatic the better.

4. Rehearse your talk ten to twenty times. Rehearse in chunks of material. Chunks are usually Introduction, Main Point 1, Main Point 2, Main Point 3 and Closing. Rehearse a chunk at a time for several times. This will make it much easier to learn than trying to rehearse the whole talk at once.

5. Connect to your listeners. Connection is the essential element to an impactful talk. Connection is a two way exchange of attention. It is a giving and receiving of universal human energy. It is much more than eye contact. To connect you must see and speak to your audience members as individuals. And you must let them see you as a person. You have to open yourself to receiving their attention and acceptance. When you genuinely connect, everyone feels it. There is a palpable presence of universal human energy as you touch your listeners on an unspoken level.

Q: What is an easy way to overcome stagefright?

A: There is no easy way to overcome stagefright. If it were easy, public speaking would not be the number one anxiety producing activity in the world.

It helps to know that the people who have the most stagefright have the potential to be the most deeply impactful speakers of all. the reason is that they have the feelings. Their feelings are up to the surface where they can be directed to create an authentic emotional connection to the audience.

Understand also that stagefright comes from perfectionism. It is triggered by a situation where there is potential for being judged and the expectation that you will not be good enough.

Healing from stagefright happens as you learn to accept yourself in front of others. When you can allow yourself to be authentic, to give up expecting perfection, you can have your real thoughts and feelings in front of others.

The following are some things to do that will help you manage stagefright:

1. Learn and practice diaphragmatic breathing. It will help reduce and release the contraction in your solar plexus associated with fear and anxiety. It will also help slow down your speech so you don’t appear as nervous.

2. Learn to be grounded in your physical body. Grounded means you are relaxed deeply in your body so you experience full-body awareness. When you bring your whole body to the presentation ( not just your head and data), you experience a calm sense of presence. Your head clears so you can think on your feet because you are in your feet.

3. Give yourself permission to feel the nervous tension. Don’t expect yourself not to feel nervous.

4. Give yourself permission to be genuine enough with your audience to reveal your anxiety to them in an appropriate way. Humor really helps with this. Your audience will appreciate your honesty and will be drawn to you for it.

5. Get into dialogue with your listeners. Plan questions to ask your audience that let them share what they know, feel or have experienced about your topic. Asking questions of them early in your presentation creates a sense that we are here together rather than I am talking at you. You will be amazed how dialoguing with the group relaxes you.

Sandra Zimmer is the Founder and Director of The Self-Expression Center. She is a trainer and coach for Presentation, Voice, Acting, Leadership & Communication. Find her online at Self-Expression.com

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