I often receive messages from people on LinkedIn requesting advice for improving different aspects of communication. I always respond to enquiries, because I believe in the usefulness of sharing my knowledge and experiences.
Therefore, in order to continue to provide value to this blog’s community, I’ve decided to unveil the Lucille Ossai Communications Toolbox. This will be a platform whereby I’ll post selected communication-related enquiries and my responses to them, in the form of ‘nuggets’, for quick reading. However, don’t be deceived by the ‘byte-sized’ responses because they’ll be loaded with practical tips and useful information.
These quick blog posts will take the format: Ask Lucille Ossai #N: XXX?

So if you have communication-related concerns you’d like quick advice on, first follow me on LinkedIn. Then tag me using @LucilleOssai, and ask your question.

Important note: This service will only be rolled out on LinkedIn.

To be eligible for the high-quality free advice, you should begin with “Ask @Lucille Ossai: XXX?” and end  with the hashtag #LucilleOssaiCommsToolbox. I’d respond to you directly on LinkedIn.

Kindly use the format below precisely:

Ask @Lucilleossai: How do I write a strong cover letter? #LucilleOssaiCommsToolbox.

If your enquiry has a broad appeal, I might decide to highlight it in a blog post under the Lucille Ossai Communications Toolbox banner. To ensure your privacy, only your general location will be stated if available, e.g. Durban, South Africa. Be assured that your personal details won’t be revealed.

Note that questions will be edited for simplicity, brevity, and clarity. At my discretion, responses posted on this blog could be more detailed than on LinkedIn.

To kick off this initiative, below is the first segment.

The Lucille Ossai Communications Toolbox

Ask Lucille Ossai  #1: As an introvert, how do I overcome my fear of public speaking?

The scenario:
I am a 55 plus-year-old professional who has  worked in higher education for more than 25 years.
For all of my life, I have been essentially shy and introverted. Over the past several years, through hard work, I have moved upward in administration, finding myself many times in the position of having to lead meetings, speak in public, and attend social functions. I struggle with these things and really need to find a way to overcome this challenge. I have trouble speaking up in meetings and I avoid speaking in public. I also avoid social functions and difficult conversations. I know to reach my potential for the next few years, I need to do these things better. 
Any advice?
Mr H.
North Carolina, USA.

My advice:


I can empathise with you as a fellow introvert. Public speaking can be scary but there are techniques that will help you. You’re not alone with this fear, as research shows that 75% of us dread public speaking.

I recently wrote an article on public speaking that would be encouraging to you: How To Speak Persuasively…In Your Own Skin.

If your fear is a medical issue—and I’m talking about a chronic phobia, which has severe physical and/or psychological manifestations—then I urge you to seek medical attention. For example, you could contact Doreen Hamilton on LinkedIn, given that she’s a trained psychologist who has successfully overcome her fear of public speaking. She also runs a programme to help people deal with their anxieties so that they speak confidently.

However, if you struggle with a general unwillingness to speak, you can overcome this problem by adopting the latest methods and by practising consistently. Effective communication skills are often learned. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to become a better speaker if you don’t actively speak (even when you’re terrified). That’s similar to learning to drive masterfully by only reading instructional materials on driving.
Below are some good ways to overcome your fear when speaking in public:
1) Prepare your materials/presentations etc. and practise adequately before the event. As I mentioned in another post, practice begets confidence.
2) Always put yourself in the shoes of your audience members, and only share relevant content. In other words, focus on their needs and you’d soon become more comfortable with speaking.
3) Breathe slowly and deeply. Experts call this diaphragmatic breathing. It calms nerves and is linked to stronger vocal power.
4) Use pauses; they allow your points ‘marinate’.  Also make efforts to connect with your audience with engaging body language cues such as smiling, gesturing naturally and using movement (where appropriate).
5) Speak much slower than you do in your daily conversations. This would feel unnatural at first. Nevertheless, it helps you articulate your thoughts precisely, thus increasing your persuasiveness. 
6) In meetings, focus on using short sentences to convey your thoughts in a simple manner.
7) Counter negative self-talk of impending failure with positive re-affirmations of your performance prior to an event. Positive visualisations also work wonders for your confidence.
8) Avoid perfection, as even seasoned speakers make mistakes. If you make a slip, move on with the rest of your speech/presentation. People are unlikely to notice errors unless you highlight them.
9) Remember that your audience members aren’t the devil’s spawns. In fact, they want you to succeed, so view them as your supporters. Draw strength from their positive perceptions of your delivery. 
10) Communication experts you could follow on LinkedIn who provide valuable advice on public speaking include Sandra Zimmer, Suzannah Baum and David McGimpsey.
11) If your budget allows, invest in yourself. Coaching and training sessions from experts would improve your communication abilities tremendously.
Bonus tip:
12) As a minimum, repeat steps 1-10 consistently.

Good luck!

What to do immediately after reading this post:

Follow me on LinkedIn, tag me and get started on this free service!

Take advantage of insights I’ve gleaned as a facilitator/lecturer, coach, trainer, and award-winning communications blogger—as well as expert advice/resources from professionals I’d recommend—and get your communication worries addressed in a quick manner directly on LinkedIn.

Check out the notice from LinkedIn:

If you enjoyed this post don’t rush off just yet. Please remember to:
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Need help with improving your communication skills?
A) Send an email to Lucille@LucilleOssai.com.
B) Call for a free consultation: 
Nigeria:               0704 631 0592
International:    +234 704 631 0592  
N.B- Image is courtesy of Stuart Miles, via freedigitalphotos.net.

10 Replies to “The Lucille Ossai Communications Toolbox: Ask Lucille Ossai #1”

  1. Lucille Ossai has a big vision to help as many people as possible to communicate more effectively! Check out her Toolbox for Q&A.

  2. Thanks Lucille for pointing those who suffer stage fright to my Essential Speaking programs.

  3. Wow!!! Great initiative… Well done Lucille Ossai, MSc, BA

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