Very few people are naturally comfortable with public speaking. Every great speaker starts in the same place you might be in right now — where public speaking is an anxiety-provoking activity that leaves you feeling shaky and sweaty. Getting over your public speaking fear is a necessary step in furthering your professional development, as there are a number of areas where public speaking skills can come in handy, from giving a presentation to stakeholders to presenting your elevator pitch. You can overcome your fear while building your business by joining a professional networking group.
Professional networking groups are a tool for building business relationships and can help you hear about sales opportunities, further your professional development, grow your business, and even find a job opportunity. Joining a networking group has another big benefit — it can help you overcome your fear of public speaking.
When you imagine your worst public speaking fear, it may include a large audience, bright lights, and a presentation you can’t remember. While throwing yourself into the deep end is one way to learn how to swim, signing yourself up to give a keynote speech for a large audience would likely be an uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing way to overcome your public speaking fears. Instead, a supportive professional networking group can provide opportunities to build your public speaking skills in steps and over several months.
For many people, networking and public speaking are not high up on their list of favorite activities. Both networking and speaking before a crowd require stepping outside of your comfort zone and interacting with strangers, either in conversation or in presentation. By getting out of your comfort zone with one, it can become easier to do the other.
Joining a professional networking group is an excellent opportunity to push the boundaries of your comfort zone a little further. When you first join a group, you’ll likely go through the typical introductions and small talk that come with meeting new people. This is your chance to build up your confidence in talking to strangers, talking about yourself and your business, and presenting yourself to a group of supportive peers.
One of the reasons why public speaking is so uncomfortable is because it’s an activity we don’t do often. Usually when speaking, we’re talking directly to another person and pausing to allow them a chance to contribute to the conversation. When speaking before a crowd of people, the dynamic is different. You’re presenting an idea or knowledge rather than sharing a conversation.
In a professional networking group, there are many opportunities to practice presenting in a supportive environment with low stakes. After you’ve gained practice putting yourself out there with introductions, present your purpose for joining your networking group.
- Hoping to build your business? Present your elevator pitch.
- Looking to gain new professional skills? Share with your peers and see what advice or connections they provide.
- Are you looking for a job? Describe your background and ask your group members to keep an ear out for you.
As your confidence and comfort with public speaking grows, take on larger presentations. Many networking groups feature regular speakers. Prepare a presentation to share your knowledge on a relevant topic. Your first presentation may still feel daunting, but with a supportive, professional group, you can practice your public speaking before an audience who is excited to see you succeed! The more opportunities you take to speak before a supportive crowd, the easier it will become to take on larger speaking events and set aside your fears.
To find a supportive networking group in your area that is focused on professional development and building a strong business network, check out 4BR member groups today!