How to Overcome your Fear of Public Speaking
Fear of public speaking is a genuine phobia and thousands of people suffer from this. Standing in front of a crowd of either your peers or complete strangers can literally leave you paralysed and tongue-tied. Unfortunately, public speaking cannot always be avoided.
If possible, you could always take a course, workshop or seminar in public speaking. Many people speak highly of the non-profit organisation Toastmasters, an educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. These and others have been beneficial for so many professionals. Look online to see if there are any in your area. If you can’t find a course, you can always use these seven helpful tips to help overcome your fear of speaking in public, whether it’s a group presentation, a one-on-one meeting with your boss or in front of a large audience.
- Prepare your materials well in advance
As soon as you are aware of the assignment, start to do your research. Keep all of your notes organised and neat. If you need to make a slide presentation, start it as soon as possible. You don’t want to be rushing around at the last minute trying to get everything into place. Organisation is the key to success in public speaking.
- Write your notes in phrases rather than complete sentences
If you need to have notes for your speech or presentation (and most of us do), make sure they are written legibly so you will be able to read them during the presentation. Write in large bold letters if you have trouble seeing. Also, you should never write out the entire speech. Just make cue cards with key phrases that way your presentation will flow naturally, and not sound as though you are reading it from a script.
- Practice beforehand
Practice makes perfect. Practice! Practice! Practice! Stand in front of a mirror and recite your speech. Set up a recorder or video camera and record yourself. Practice it in front of an audience of your peers (co-workers, friends, family members.) This way you won’t be giving your presentation stone cold when the moment comes and you will feel more at ease. Plus you will have feedback and constructive criticism from your peers so you can make any necessary changes and adjustments. It is also a good idea to use a timer so you can know the length of your speech, especially if there is a time restraint. This will show if you need to shorten or lengthen your overall presentation.
- Stay hydrated
Take small sips of water before your presentation. If possible, have a small bottle of water available during your presentation as well so you won’t become dehydrated. Do not drink so much however, that you will need to leave in the middle of your speech to use the restroom (use the facilities right before your speech, if possible).
- Speak slowly and clearly
Take a deep breath before you begin. Speak slowly and clearly, and enunciate as you speak. Do not rush your speech or you will end up with an awkward amount of time to fill at the end. It’s a natural tendency to rush through a speech, so slowing yourself down will bring you back to a normal pace. Also remember to pause when necessary and most importantly do not forget to breathe during your presentation.
- Maintain a professional, but relaxed stance
Do not stand straight up and frozen in one space. If you feel comfortable moving around and have the ability to do so, this may help you feel more relaxed and natural. Maintain a comfortable stance, but also remain professional at all times. Do not shift from one foot to another or fidget.
- Focus on your presentation, not the audience
Do not stare at the audience during your presentation. A lot of people panic as soon as they notice the endless sea of faces before them. Focus on the your speech or presentation. However, do not stare at your notes or slides the entire time. Pick an object in back of the audience to focus on, such as an exit sign or a wall framing, and look up from your notes as much as possible.
If you have a fear of public speaking, put the above into practice, and try to make regular public speaking appearances – this is a great way to get over your fear!