I recently heard from a small business owner who wrote, "I am one of those people who hate standing in front of an audience… I am finding that my fearfulness is preventing me from marketing my business the way I want to; for example, I avoid going to business association meetings where I have to introduce myself." Sound familiar?

This statement is not surprising, since the fear of public speaking is consistently ranked as people's number one fear. That fear becomes a roadblock on your path to success and an obstacle that prevents you from growing your business, getting a better job or feeling more confident.

I had a similar case with a client last year. Let's call her Rachel. Rachel is a life coach whose fear of public speaking was preventing her from giving the presentations that were required to grow her business and attract new clients.

In order to overcome Rachel's fear, we worked on the following three steps:

1. UNDERSTANDING what she was afraid of (looking like an incompetent fool, having her face and neck turn completely red)

2. PRACTICING her presentation (writing it out, rehearsing it so she could communicate her message within the time limit, practicing it in the clothes she would be wearing for the actual event, getting comfortable making eye contact and smiling, etc.)

3. EXPERIENCING SUCCESS one step at a time - starting off with delivering a 5-minute introduction about life coaching (that we worked on for hours) and progressing to running a 1-hour workshop for an audience of twelve.

Fast forward several months and Rachel has had several successful speaking engagements. She even had a PR person tell her that she is ready to be interviewed on television because she projects an air of confidence and competence! And all because she decided to face her fear and spent the time and effort necessary to improve her speaking skills.

It is my firm belief - and experience has not contradicted me - that while some people are more naturally comfortable with public speaking, EVERYONE can become competent at it, IF they spend the time and work on the right things. Yes, this means YOU, too! Make this the year you overcome your fear of public speaking and eliminate the roadblock in your path to success and confidence.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills. Receive a FREE Special Report, "Six Mistakes to Avoid in Public Speaking, So Your Presentation Sparkles" by visiting http://gildabonanno.com/newsletter.aspx and entering your email address. You'll also be subscribed to Gilda's free twice-monthly e-newsletter containing practical tips you can use immediately to improve your communication and presentation skills. Copyright (c) 2009

Author's Bio: 

Gilda Bonanno is a trainer, speaker, coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurs, small business owners and corporate professionals sharpen their presentation and communication skills. She achieves these results by combining her extensive business experience with a talent for improvisational performance and a belief that with the right training and practice, everyone can become an effective communicator.
In addition to facilitating high-energy, client-focused training programs, Gilda speaks about leadership, motivation, communication and humor to groups ranging from engineers to healthcare professionals to human resource practitioners. Gilda also coaches individuals to overcome their fear of public speaking and eliminate the barriers to letting their voice be heard.
She is Immediate Past President of the Southern CT chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and a member of the National Speakers Association. Gilda also is a member of the World Class Indifference improv comedy team, which performs shows and workshops in New York City and throughout Connecticut. She incorporates improv techniques into her training and coaching, helping people learn to think on their feet, be creative and develop confidence. Gilda has worked with clients throughout the US, and in Mexico, China and India.