• Ranga Iyengar & Vidya Yedavalli

Glossophobia (a.k.a. Public Speaking) – a leader’s number one fear!


There are only 2 types of speakers in the world – the nervous and the liars – Mark Twain

Do you have something to say?

We get many opportunities to ‘speak up’ or ‘speak out’ – the medium could be anything – a meeting, a forum, a column, a blog, a tweet, an article, teaching, addressing a formal or informal group or people. If you are thinking Public speaking is only for extroverts you will be surprised to know that some of the best public speakers were/are introverts – Gandhi, Churchill, Lincoln, Einstein, Gates, Zuckerburg to name a few.

Today if you are a leader or an entrepreneur, you will probably have something to say to others – however, originality matters and does take some effort to be perceived as authentic – honestly public speaking is about being in the moment and connected to the audience. Your public speaking persona is an intrinsic and significant part of your personal brand.

The fear of public speaking

Leaders & entrepreneurs have no choice but to work on overcoming their public speaking fears – we like to break it down into 3 aspects – body, mind and spirit – the body bit is more about how you manage your body physiology which builds part of your stage persona, the mental bit is more about the content, communication, presentation, language and self-expression whereas the spirit is really about your passion, commitment, audience connect, visualization, inclusion and a positive mental image. Each of these areas require the speaker to develop the skills and competence through regular practice.

The purpose of public speaking

For those of you looking for the purpose of public speaking, Dale Carnegie described three key principles of public speaking - think and feel things that are worthy of being given forth (value); channelizing and expressing inner thought and feelings; and the basic technique of how to speak.

Without expressing ourselves clearly as leaders & entrepreneurs, we will miss out on the all-important emotional connect with our audiences. Public speaking can also be used in a simply and clear way to create an organizational dialogue – the radio talk “Mann ki Baat’ that is done by our PM is an elegant example of communicating powerfully to the masses.

Some tools & techniques

Public speaking needs a lot of regular work and practice especially so here are some tips to get started –

Techniques –

  • If you are not a celebrity, people come to you for content so focus on that

  • Connect with the audience – you can choose to inspire, entertain or share – the choice is yours

  • Meet and speak with your audience before you start speaking – it will reduce your nervousness

  • Build on the dialogue with the audience – this helps create rapport and inclusion

  • No one is perfect – however, make sure your first 10 minutes are well memorized

  • Keep time to prepare and practice else you will drain yourself physically and emotionally

  • Combine passion, knowledge and experience for maximum impact

Tools -

  • Build your content into small storyboards preferably visual

  • Use presentations visuals as a backdrop – talk to people not the slide

  • Start and finish strong – build confidence through positive visualization & expression

  • Focus on the simplicity of language – be succinct as rambling will not help

  • Learn to use bridging to connect and build rapport with the audience

  • Learn to use your body – props are often not useful

  • Pause, reflect and pace your audience – identify characters in the audience you can use

  • Appreciate and include your audience – without feedback and response, audience will be isolated

Finding opportunities for public speaking

You can consider testing waters through your office meetings and industry forums – you can also reach out to speak at conferences and seminars as well as volunteer for speaking engagements. Informal group presentations can also be done through in company knowledge groups or industry peer groups. Consider writing a book or a column – this is one of elegant ways to start connecting with audiences.

Benefits of public speaking

Public speaking will push the boundaries of your communication and knowledge abilities – the biggest challenge that even experienced presenters experience is running out of words and ideas – it is perhaps one of the best ways to naturally expand your mind – needless to say with every interaction, you also get feedback to improve your personal brand! Perhaps, for some of you, it can turn out to be a good hobby as well!!


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