Alan Donegan used to be painfully shy, and three years ago, after losing his job, he felt he’d hit rock bottom and would never be able to pursue his dream of running a training company. All this changed when he joined his local Toastmasters’ club.
Toastmasters’ mission is to provide a mutually supportive environment for improving public speaking and leadership skills.
When Alan joined he had one simple aim – to improve his speaking skills, so he was very surprised that it also built his confidence and helped him overcome his shyness.
“Since joining Toastmasters three years ago I have managed to reach the finals of the Humorous Speaking Championships, and I’ve done my first stand-up comedy set, and presented to over 100,000 people in a day working for Andrex. Not bad for someone who was so shy they found talking to even one person difficult!”
Alan has eight tips to help others overcome their shyness when it comes to presenting and talking to large groups;
- Remember nerves are normal everyone gets them.
- Stop thinking about what will happen if you forget what you are going to say, or fall over, or people laugh at you. Instead think about “how much value can I give to my audience?”, “how can I make it fun for my audience?” or ask “how could this be fun for me?”
- Remind yourself you are there to give your audience the gift of your experience, knowledge and expertise.
- If you get the opportunity beforehand – chat to the audience. It will help you feel more like you’re talking to a group of friends.
- The best antidote to nerves is to face them regularly. The more you give presentations the more comfortable you will become with it. So practice, practice, practice!
- Remember that the audience wants you to succeed! I have never met an audience that thought “I hope this guy is rubbish, I hope I don’t enjoy it.”
- Deliver the talk in front of a friendly audience first in order to get comfortable with the process. Avoid testing a new speech on a new audience.
- Before you start to present take a moment to breathe deeply and slowly. Try breathing in for three, holding for nine, and then out for six. Repeat four or five times.