When it comes to phobias, fear of speaking in public is one of the most common. It makes sense – you’re out there in front of a group of people, all of whom are waiting to listen to what you have to say, and you’re terrified that you won’t measure up.
People think actresses find public speaking easy, and it’s not easy at all; we’re used to hiding behind masks. ~ Jane Fonda
So how do you overcome a fear of speaking in public?
For some people, public speaking is such a huge fear that it even leads to full-blown panic attacks. When the fear is great, people might avoid speaking in public or try to find ways to deal with the fear.
The first step is to build confidence, and here’s are 8 concrete methods for doing that.
First, you have to relax. And the best way to do this is to breathe deeply. When you’re focusing on your breathing, you don’t have time to think about what can go wrong. Take deep, slow breaths. Do this for at least ten minutes before you actually get up to the podium to deliver your speech.
2. Imagine Being Successful
Assume that your presentation is going to go well. Release any negative thoughts, and picture yourself in front of an audience that’s looking approvingly at you and hanging on your every word. Assume that your audience is going to see you as the authority on your subject, and then go forth and embrace the audience – these are people who have come to hear what you have to say, because you’re an authority.
3. Accept That You Know Your Stuff
You know your topic, and you care about it. If you don’t, what are you doing up there in the first place? When you know what you’re talking about, it doesn’t even matter if you get lost in the middle of your speech – you’ll recover! And you have the answers, don’t you? There’s a reason why you were asked to speak – it’s because you know what you’re talking about.
4. Be Organized
You’re an expert in your field, but you can’t possibly disseminate all your information in just one speech. So think about what you want to talk about, and get your visual aids props and so on in order. It’s okay to use outline cards. You should also visit the location of your speech before you actually deliver it.
5. Picture Yourself Succeeding
As we’ve said before, you know your stuff. So picture your speech going well. If you go into the auditorium with positive thoughts, your presentation will likely go accordingly.
This is an old technique that actually works – stand in front of a mirror and deliver your speech. Ask a friend to toss out questions that your audience might ask. Evaluate your performance and look for areas that could be improved.
7. Join a Group
There are all sorts of people who are afraid of speaking in public, and there’s help available. Toastmasters International offers courses that will help you to become an effective speaker. You can practice and be critiqued in a safe environment long before you actually have to deliver that major speech.
8. Laugh at Yourself
If something goes wrong, find the humor in the situation. So you dropped your notes – tell your audience that you just got new hands, and you’re still learning how to use them. They’ll get a good chuckle, giving you time to pick up and move on. You stumble over your words? Say something like “Sorry, Incomprehensible is actually my first language – I’m still working on English!” Again, your audience will laugh, and there’s no real harm done.
Any time you try to do something new, you can feel anxious. If you’ve never given a speech before, try out some of the techniques we’ve suggested. Remember that practice makes perfect in most areas of life, and public speaking is no exception. When all else fails, ask yourself this: If this speech goes bad, in five year’s time, will it really matter? Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
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