“Public speaking is one of the best things I hate.”
-Baseball great Yogi Berra

You’re hyperventilating. You’re dripping perspiration. You’re legs are wobbly and you have the distinct desire to flee. What’s going on here? Are you being pursued by a pack of rabid dogs? No. You are about to speak before an audience.
It might surprise you to learn that according to The Book of Lists by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace, the fear of public speaking ranks number one, above the fear of heights, death and illness. That’s 40% of the population. Why? Is it simply the fear of rejection? It might be a little more straightforward. Most people are afraid they will make a mistake and look like a fool in front of any audience.
Having been a public speaker for three decades, I want to let you in on a few secrets.
It’s ok to be nervous. There has never been a time, ever, that I don’t fuss, obsess and feel fear. Here’s why it works for me. I use my fussing and obsessing to mentally prepare and rehearse my speech. I practice, practice and practice some more, both verbally and in my imagination. That’s what allows me to turn fear into energy and gives me the self confidence I need.
Get over yourself. If that sounds a little tough, it’s meant to be because what is important is your message. Did you get that? If you make the message the most important thing, your focus will be on delivering what’s most important. Therefore, you must be passionate about your topic and the message and want your audience to be as passionate as you. That choice is totally within your control. Speak from your heart and you will not fail. As the great film director, John Ford said, “You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”
No one wants you to fail. Think about how you feel when you’re sitting in an audience, listening to a speaker. What do you want? Do you want someone to bumble, stumble and make mistakes? No. You want to be informed, educated, and entertained and, I hope, moved to action. You want the speaker to be wonderful. That’s what people want from you. They are in your corner. That why….
…It’s ok to make a couple of mistakes. You do not, DO NOT, need to worry about being perfect. I guarantee you that the audience members aren’t. If you are prepared and passionate, they will forgive a lot.
Handle your stress and breathe. When we are under stress and pressure, our bodies will seek that which makes us feel comfortable and safe. The bad news is that fear makes us breathe shallowly which increases the fear. It also often means our eyes will jump around looking at anything and everything but the audience or having a death grip on the podium or the back of the chair or clutching our notes like a life line. We might shove our hands in our pockets or clasp them behind our back. Or, we might fidget about like a squirrel on six cups of coffee. Worst of all, we might infuse our talk with “ums” and “ands” or end ever sentence with “You know,” or “OK?” All this drive people crazy and all can be avoided by being relaxed and being - aware. Always take a few deep breathes before you begin you speech and breath throughout your talk. Take your time.
Practice everyday. Start today to become aware in all your conversations. Notice if you fall prey to any of these negative habits I just listed. If you can correct them in your day to day conversations, you will avoid these pitfalls in public speaking.
Use your power of mind and visualize. Pro football Hall of Fame, Jack Youngblood said, “I visualize things in my mind before I have to do them. It’s like having a mental workshop.” Your ability is your give and this gift can make you an exceptional speaker.
I’ve mentioned this point before and it bears repeating. Learn to manage your thinking! You subconscious cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined experience. Every time you rehearse in your imagination, the more self confidence you will have and – the less fear. You don’t have to memorize your entire speech but you need to have a clear and precise to which you can refer and you must have the first 2-3 minutes of your presentation nailed down precisely.
Visualize and “see” yourself delivering the presentation. Visualize the room in which you will be presenting. Visualize your audience. In your mental script, you are totally prepared, relaxed, in control and confident. Go through your presentation several times.
Timothy J. Koegel sums it up best in his wonderful book, The Exceptional Presenter, when he writes, “Visualize yourself delivering an organized, passionate, engaging presentation in a conversation manner, and it will be so…think tall, keep your head and eyes up, smile, never retreat and move with purpose, energy and enthusiasm.”
Here’s another one of my secrets. Before I visualize and before I speak, I conjure up a memory from the past that gives me the extra charge of self confidence. Years ago, I was performing a show at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. The audience was sold out. Everything worked and I got a standing ovation from twenty-five hundred people. That’s the feeling I take inside of me. In fact, just writing down these words for you gives me a charge. That’s what you need to do. Perhaps you won an award, got an A+ on an exam, or played a fabulous game of golf. It could be anything. Go back in your past. Vividly relieve the memory, pull out the emotion and plug it into your visualization and just before you walk on stage. You will be rewarded for you effort and as the great physicist, Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is a preview of life’s coming attractions.”
I’ve given you everything you need to take control, blast through fear and be a very good speaker. The time to start is today.

Author's Bio: 

Speaker, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” peak performance coach, author: Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind.

James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best- selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach. For over 30 years, James has been an ardent student of human behavior and dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations identify and break through barriers to reach their goals and achieve success. He encourages people to be open to new ways of thinking, and his goal is to help everyone make the "quantum leap" toward more creative, productive and confident lives. For both businesses and individuals, his message promotes an innovative, powerful way of thinking and provides a new-found mastery over their imagination and perceptions so that, in his words, "the invisible becomes visible and the impossible becomes possible." The results have been nothing short of extraordinary, creating key breakthroughs in both organizational and personal excellence.

James Mapes' success as a speaker and highly regarded authority on the imagination, creative thinking, communication, managing change, organizational problem-solving, successful teamwork and coaching is due to his early training as an actor and experience as a theatrical producer. In 1969, he graduated from California State University with a Master of Arts degree in theater and speech. He then worked in repertory theater, off-Broadway and directed two of his own theater companies, amassing dozens of television and movie credits. As a performer, he developed a unique stage presence with a special talent for connecting with his audience. Mapes' work has earned him appearances on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox Family Channel, among other media outlets.

As a recognized business speaker and performance coach, James has spoken to hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries. His clients include financial institutions, software companies, the military, the healthcare industry, financial institutions, training and development divisions of large corporations and major non-profit organizations. Companies, associations, universities and business schools including - IBM Corporate, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed Martin and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training - have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.

James Mapes personal goal of living an exceptional life is reflected in both his business activities as well as his recreational pursuits, which range from scuba-diving, ballooning, racecar driving, Kempo Karate, and world travel, to an avid interest in reading. His two highly regarded books are Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner's Guide to the Mind and The Workbook: The Magic of Quantum Leap Thinking. His new book "IMAGINE THAT! Using Your Brain for a Change" is scheduled for publication in 2013.

James Mapes presentations are personal, interactive and humorous. Above all, he creates results and makes a lasting difference in the energy level, commitment and productivity of each individual in his audience.

In the 1970's, James became interested in the power of the subconscious mind. To better understand this intriguing area, he researched psychology, philosophy, neurology and eventually, hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. His expertise quickly earned him recognition as a clinical hypnotist, becoming highly effective in assisting clients in weight reduction, smoking cessation, the elimination of phobias and pain reduction for terminally ill cancer patients. As a skilled practitioner of regression techniques, he helped the New York City Police Department in "memory recovery" with both witnesses to, and victims of, crime and he has worked with professional athletes to help improve their performance in their sport.

James Mapes has created an ongoing series of self-improvement audio recordings and writes a syndicated newspaper column for Hearst newspapers in Connecticut and The Arizona Reporter. James also enjoys presenting his one-man show, Journey Into the Imagination at performing arts centers and universities around the country. He appeared on Broadway in 2003 and presented A Whirlwind Tour of the Mind at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2007. When not touring, James and his wife divide their time between residences in Westport, Connecticut, and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.