You were probably speaking before you could walk, but that might not make facing a group of people any easier.
Whether you are preparing for a business presentation, a wedding speech, or a conference tutorial, we believe these five tried and tested approaches will help as you overcome your fear of public speaking.
1. Be prepared and knowledgeable. Understanding what you’re talking about fully gives you complete confidence. Knowing the material backwards and forwards will prepare you better than anything else, aside from the next four approaches, that is.
In addition to the content, prepare for speaking to a group. There are organizations locally such as Toastmasters International that focus on oratory exercises in a supportive group environment.
2. Write notes that are talking points, not the exact speech. This means you will have opportunities to look at your audience, connect with them, and sound less robotic. Choose one key phrase to sum up a message but let your speaking convey the details. This goes for any visual presentation or slides as well. If they’re too densely packed with words, they’ll be too busy reading to pay attention to what you’re saying. Unless that’s your secret plan.
3. It’s about the content not the audience. Accept that there will be a percentage of people in the audience checking email on their phones, a few more may be whispering to the person beside them, a handful will be wondering how to sneak out gracefully to make a call, and many may not be interested.
Keep this in mind because that means you’re really talking to a much smaller group. Now, doesn’t that make you feel better already? Focus on the content of your speech and the right people will pay attention.
4. Practice alone and with a safe audience. Practice reading the speech alone then try it in front of a mirror, then record yourself doing it and watch it, and, finally, practice in front of real people. Don’t forget to include any presentation visuals in with your practice so you gain familiarity and confidence with how it should go.
Choose your test audience based on who will be supportive, attentive, and honest so you can feel safe while delivering your speech, but receive constructive feedback afterward. We recommend the Sandwich Technique for that.
1. Picture yourself doing it. Visualization is a powerful tool for professional athletes to gain confidence with a particular play, or for those facing a fear to run through it mentally in a safe zone.
Don’t just see yourself finishing the speech and receiving applause, but focus on the entire process. Walking onto the stage (or into the boardroom), stepping up to the microphone, looking out into the sea of people, and delivering your speech calmly.
Do this a few times until your mouth no longer goes dry and you feel you are ready to do it for real. If you stumble in your visualized speech, follow through with that and see how you calmly recover and continue.
The main thing to keep in mind throughout all this is that you have other skills and attributes that make you a valued person in business and in life, so don’t put the pressure on yourself to be a perfect public speaker and don’t associate your self-worth with success in one area that makes you nervous in the first place.
What is the last speech you gave and were you nervous? What did you do that helped?