Publisher's Note: Speak Easy

I have a confession to make. I really enjoy talking with people at industry events, parties or dinners, but public speaking has never been my forte. Put me on stage to talk to a group of people, and my heart begins pounding; I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the room suddenly feels like one of the hottest, muggiest days in Florida.

I recently saw a report about Hollywood producer and director Michael Bay that confirms I’m not alone. Bay, who was helping debut a new gadget at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, froze during his presentation and eventually walked off stage. Bay later posted an admission on his website that he wasn’t good at
live events.

Believe it or not, various surveys from around the world list public speaking as people’s number one fear. Also known as glossophobia, this fear impacts people from all walks of life—from CEOs to stylists working behind the chair. Researchers hypothesize that our intense fear of public speaking stems from evolution. In the past, when humans were hunted by large predators, living as a group was a basic survival skill. Being ostracized or separated from the group would signal that attack was imminent. This may have evolved into the fear of public speaking. On a deeper level, people might be afraid of being rejected and snubbed by their audience.

The good news is there are ways around that apprehension of public speaking. For instance, public speaking experts hail these rules as the secrets to success.

  1. Practice out loud. Record your presentation and get used to the sound of your own voice.
  2. Breathe deeply right before starting. This sends a signal to your brain to shut off the fear response.
  3. Get right to it. You’re most likely to panic within the first 30 seconds, so ask a question and get your audience involved.

Redken’s Ann Mincey, one of the industry’s best speakers, taught a class called Ovations, where she used a hamburger as the anchor and visual for speakers to form their presentations. “To this day, I still have artists telling me they remember that burger every time they have been asked to create a class,” Mincey says. Here’s how the burger analogy worked:

  • Top bun: Attention-grabbing opening statement, question, story or quote
  • Middle: The meat of the presentation; normally three points supported by examples, practices, techniques, and stories or testimonials
  • Bottom bun: The closing, where you ask for action, and then wrap up with remarks that often have an emotional, personal tie-in

“The favorite mantra for the class was ‘something to say and a system for saying it,’” Mincey says. Most definitely food for thought.
✂ —Brett Vinovich, publisher, [email protected]