Surf the Internet for just a few minutes and you can find some strange prescriptions for beating your fear of public speaking.
Here is one from Christine Kane, who bills herself as “Mentor to Women Who Are Changing the World.”
“Perform from the fear. You’ll have to adapt this one to work for your own situation. Some nights I don’t have the strong confident thing going. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I’m irreversibly scared. So, I’ll start the performance from a softer place.”
I have no idea what she’s talking about. But when I hear advice like that I want to tell people that they would do a lot better to take a lesson from my favorite episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Of course The Beverly Hillbillies was that wonderful sitcom from the 1960s that followed the adventures of the Clampetts. They were a backwoods family that struck it rich on oil and — for reasons that I never understood — moved to Beverly Hills, Calif.
My favorite episode was the one where Granny, the Clampett matriarch, boasted of having a sure-fire cure for the common cold. If I recall correctly, when the banker Mr. Drysdale heard that Granny had discovered a cure, he became excited. He arranged for her to meet with leading California doctors who would evaluate her cure.
After much buildup, Granny finally revealed that her cure involved a shot of her homemade moonshine, bed rest and lots of water. After two weeks of this regimen, Granny explained, your cold will be gone.
“Works every time,” Jed Clampett explained to the disappointed doctors.
So what does this have to do with beating a fear of public speaking? Like Granny’s cure for the common cold, my cure for stage fright is also sure-fire, but perhaps a little disappointing.
Not long ago a senior executive at a large company called for help in improving her skills. I had worked with her in the past and she told me that she had improved.
But she was frustrated with her slow progress.
“I’m more comfortable than I used to be,” she told me. “But I’m still not completely comfortable. What can I do to get to the point where I’m completely comfortable?”
Similar to Granny, I told my client that I had a sure-fire cure for stage fright.
“Here’s what you do,” I explained. “I want you to find an opportunity to give a presentation this week. It can be on a conference call or in a meeting. It has to be at least five minutes long. Make sure that you practice the presentation at least twice before you give it. And when you practice, make sure that you do it in front of a mirror or a video camera. You want to make sure that you’re as enthusiastic as possible when you speak.
“I want you to do the same thing next week. And repeat the process every week.
“Do that for ten years.
“By the time you’re done, you will have conquered your fear of public speaking.”
As Uncle Jed would say, “It works every time!”
Joey Asher is president of Speechworks, a selling and communication skills coaching company in Atlanta. He has worked with thousands of business people, helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. He is the author of 15 Minutes Including Q&A: A Plan to Save the World From Lousy Presentations, How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You From the Competition, Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers and Even a Geek Can Speak. He can be reached at 404-266-0888 or email@example.com.