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By Andrea RowlandGoDaddy

I’m afraid of sharks. So scared, in fact, that I once turned down a chance to snorkel over one of the most teeming-with-tropical-fish (prey) reefs in the world because I read that reef was a favorite hunting spot for Caribbean reef sharks. My sister told me it was one of the most amazing experiences of her snorkeling life. And I missed the boat, so to speak.

You don’t want to let your fear prevent you from taking advantage of any amazing opportunities, do you?

Fear of public speaking (aka Glossophobia) is the most common phobia in the world. It’s more common that the fear of dying, spiders, heights and the dark. (Sharks don’t even make the Top 10, surprisingly). Nearly three-quarters of us are afraid to talk in front of a group of people. Seventy-four percent to be exact.

Think about how many opportunities your Glossophobia is keeping from you.

If you’re a small business owner, speaking engagements are an incredible way to get information about your products or services in front of targeted groups and to help establish your credibility in your field. That face-to-face interaction with a group of people — potential customers, maybe, or social media-savvy listeners who will share your message with their followers — is priceless for promoting your brand.

Don’t be scared; be ready. Here’s how:

  1. Get educated. I’m not afraid of public speaking … now. I used to be, but then I took a college course and learned that speaking in front of a group is just like any other skill for which you need to obtain and hone a set of specific skills. Continuing education courses offered at your local community college and groups such as Toastmasters International® are invaluable resources for gaining those tools.
  2. Plan and practice, practice, practice. Two words: keyword outline. That nifty little tool was just about my greatest takeaway from Speech 101. Instead of outlining every stat and clever quip I planned to unleash on the crowd, I learned to create and memorize a concise outline of key words and phrases that triggered the thoughts I wanted to express, naturally.Confidence comes from understanding your subject matter in and out, from creating a short outline for your speech, and then practicing it over and over again. Video and critique yourself. Stand in front of a mirror. Put on an after-dinner show for your spouse. In the words of the great Mark Twain, “It usually takes me two or three days to prepare an impromptu speech.”
  3. Start small and work up. Sure, the chance to take part in TED Talks might top your list of public speaking goals — and watching these amazing speakers is an inspiring way to learn some awesome speaking tricks — but you’ll want to be at the top of your game before you make that kind of speaking splash. Start with opportunities to speak to smaller groups. If you’re a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, get on its speaker’s circuit. Offer to speak to civic organizations like your community’s Rotary Club or Junior League. Contact local colleges to see if there are opportunities for you to share your real-world expertise.And, when you feel 100-percent comfortable talking to 20 budding entrepreneurs in Business Management 201, start booking engagements with larger groups.

Then you’ll be ready.

Want to learn more? Check out the Mayo Clinic’s advice for overcoming a fear of public speaking.

About the Author:

Andrea RowlandA former small business owner and newspaper journalist, and a published nonfiction author, Andrea Rowland helps craft compelling communications for today’s go-getters through her work as a copy editor at GoDaddy. Connect with Andrea on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.