If you’re anything like me, you probably have a whole stack of books sitting around that you’re really going to read some day. Yeah right!
Sure, it would be nice to get some more reading done, but let’s face it: there is usually something more urgent that needs to get done. And when you have to do all the urgent things, there isn’t much time left over for the non-urgent (but still important in the long run) activities like reading.
Did you know that the majority of people in the United States don’t ever read a single book after high school? In fact, if you take all the book sales in the U.S. it’s enough for about one book per person, and most of those don’t even get read. They’re sitting on some shelf like in my bedroom.
Without continuing to read, how can you stay sharp in your industry and get a raise? How can you keep your brain alert and full of new ideas? How can you master new skills and improve your hobbies?
A book is incredibly powerful because it gives you leverage. The author could have spent years of his or her life studying a subject, reading everything that had already been written, learning from the best, summarizing different theories, and simplifying complex ideas. After ten years of research, thousands of hours and millions of pages can be condensed into a concise little 200 page novel, and little old you comes along to get it for $10.
You can now plug that information right into your brain, just like you’d insert a CD-ROM into a computer. Zap! A few hours later it has been copied, and you’ve just done an amazing thing: gotten the accumulation of the best ideas that the human race has produced for all time. If you had to do it on your own, it would have taken you the ten years and millions of pages that the author went through. But instead you took a short-cut.
I mean, other animals can’t do that. A monkey can merely learn from it’s parents or other members of it’s group. It can’t learn from a monkey that lives on the other side of the world, or even over the next hill, and it certainly can’t learn from monkey’s of the past who are long gone. If the monkey wants to discover a new way to peel bananas, he’s pretty much limited to what he can come up with on his own. With each generation of monkey’s that passes on, great amounts of information as lost because they can’t store and pass on ideas to future generations.
We as humans have been given this amazing communication tool, and yet so few take advantage of it. It’s really a shame when you think about it.
So here is my long winded answer to getting more reading done that we should all take advantage of: audio books.
You see, every day you have to drive (or perhaps take the subway or public transportation). With a stack of books at home, you can always have something more important to do instead. But you aren’t going to wake up one day and say “I’m too busy to drive anywhere today”. Given the average commute to work alone, you’ll probably spend 45 minutes in the car.
Life is quite simply too short to spend time listening to Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, and advertisements for male enhancement on the radio, and as Brian Tracy says “if you aren’t listening to books on tape, you quite simply aren’t serious about being successful in life”.
Almost every high performance person I know listens to books on tape. Probably a number of people who you respect and admire do as well, but you just don’t know it yet! It’s not the kind of thing that comes up in everyday conversation, especially since feels a little bit dorky (to be perfectly honest). But they are still doing it.
Almost every major book you can think of that comes out today is available as an audio book. You can purchase them on websites like Audible.com (the Amazon of audio books) and even get them for free at your local library. Once you start to meet other people who listen to audio books, you’ll start to swap them and get them for free that way.
Another benefit of audio books is that many people retain information better by listening than by reading. Were you the type of person in class who preferred to listen to the teacher or to read the text book on your own? Personally, I always found reading text books in school to be boring, but I have no problem listening to someone talk (especially if the topic is interesting) and tend to learn better that way. Everyone is different, but it was a big advantage for me.
With the amount of time the average person spends in the car, it’s not unreasonable to finish an additional book every week. Since you have to drive (or commute, or go to the gym, etc – there are plenty of other places besides driving), the chances of forgetting to read or not having enough time go right out the window.
How would your life be different if you read an additional 50 books per year? Do you think you might get some good ideas? Do you think you might learn a few tips that could help your life?
Get started right now by going out and purchasing an audio book.
Brian Armstrong became a financially independent business owner within one year or quitting his job. You can learn how to start your own home based business in 30 days with less than $100 at his website.
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
How did I do?
Are there any areas for improvement?
Did I sound or look stressed?
Did I stumble on my words? Why?
Was I saying “um” too often?
How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too: