Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking
Date: October 19, 2015
You’re not the only one if you fear standing in front of strangers. Or if it’s impossible to speak to them conversationally without falling apart.
Many people suffer from severe public speaking anxiety. They have a serious meltdown when they’re on stage and just can’t relax, remember their lines or actually enjoy themselves.
For public speakers like yourself, you can’t afford to feel like this, because it is your career at stake. It’s what you love to do, and you can’t let nerves get the better of you.
In the Entrepreneur article linked above, the writer talks about how you can overcome your fear of speaking by going out there and doing it. There is no magic cure for conquering the nerves and rush of panic you might feel, other than to do what you dread.
Just like in the article, once you work on the root causes, you stop letting it hold you back so much. You’re not alone, because 75 percent of people fear talking in front of others, but only few do something about it.
Organise Your Speech
Image by University of Michigan’s Ford School
Get your material written, prepared and rehearsed before you even think about presenting in front of anyone. A combination of a fear of being scrutinised, and the pressure of remembering your lines, will only make you worse.
Thoroughly preparing your speech and yourself will help to organise all of your thoughts so when it comes down to the big day, your mind isn’t all over the place. When you watch other people looking calm and collected on stage, it’s because they know their material in their sleep.
This doesn’t mean you have to memorise every single word, but know what the key points you want to address are, so that when you’re in front of listeners you never hesitate of what’s coming next.
Practice your speech regularly to yourself and set a timetable of when you will rehearse, and stick to it. Don’t let anything get in the way of your rehearsal time, because these moments are crucial to helping you stay calm on stage.
Whilst you’re working on this, back the pressure off of yourself.
Practice Speaking In Front Of Others
It’s what you’ve been avoiding. You thought speaking your lines aloud to yourself was enough to prepare you, but it’s not. Part of your fear of speaking in front of others, is seeking their approval and not being able to handle critical feedback.
Be brave and honest with yourself. Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking you’re confident enough to not need any more rehearsal time, because you’ll just let yourself down by doing so.
Ask family members and friends if they’ll watch you present your speech to them and give you feedback. Part of controlling your fear is by facing it head on and doing exactly what you’re afraid of.
The first time you do it, you’ll feel intimidated because you’re surrounded by loved ones who are supposed to be proud of you, and you’ll feel pressured to live up to that. Accept that it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous and not want to speak in front of people you’re close with. But do it anyway.
When you’ve finished ask them a few questions such as:
“Did I look nervous?”
You surely were, but that’s not for other people to know. Ask for observations about your body language. Standing up tall with relaxed shoulders and feet stable to the ground shows you’re in control of the situation.
If you were constantly transferring your weight from one foot to another, and swaying, you’re showing your audience that you’re nervous.
Keeping your arms open and wide with your chest slightly pushed back makes you appear confident. But if you’re hunched and hold your arms close to your body, you look afraid and unprofessional.
“How Was The Pace And Volume Of My Speech?”
The pace and volume is a clear indication of how confident you were. Now it’s easy to tell if someone is nervous, because they tend to speak at a quieter volume and their voice shakes a little.
It’s to be expected that you won’t sound perfect for the first run through, but whatever you do, don’t rush through the speech that you’ve worked so hard on. Rushing through means that no-one will understand what you’re saying and it will have all been a waste of time.
Once you’ve gathered feedback from your listeners, don’t take it to heart. Even the best people don’t always get 100 percent positive feedback, because everyone has different opinions. But it’s crucial to the learning curve that you take it constructively and not offensively.
The reason for this is so that you can face rejection and comments that are other than ‘that was perfect’ or ‘you were amazing’. After all, you’re really fearful of being told you’re not good enough than you’re perfect.
Every comment you receive is useful in helping you become a better speaker, and don’t just neglect what they have to say. If you were told that you look too tense, then drop your shoulders and take some deep breaths before the next time.
Develop a plan to work on the areas you need to address, but take it one step at a time. Work on body language the next time, and then reduce the amount of ums you say the next time. You’ll remember everything better if you do it in shorter bursts.
Yes, there will be a next time. Continuously perform your speech in front of people to gather critical feedback. Think about famous singers – they can handle rejection and judgmental comments because they’re used to it.
Build Your Confidence As A Speaker
After you’ve been told everything you’re doing wrong and worked on those areas continuously, it’s time to work on building your confidence, or at least how to appear like you’re the most confident person in the world.
Give yourself a pat on the back for working hard up until now and plucking up the courage to present your material to your loved ones.
Take pride in yourself by preparing the best speech you could possibly make. If you knew that everyone would love your work, would you be quite so intimidated of performing it in front of everyone? Probably not so much.
We are sometimes our worst critique and we don’t go for the things we really want in life because we’re afraid that we’re not good enough. But these thoughts are detrimental to your confidence and will only bring you down.
Every time you feel yourself saying that you have no real skills, turn it into a positive and switch your thinking. ‘I am going to fail’ becomes ‘I will not allow myself to fail’. ‘Everyone will hate me’ turns into ‘not everyone will love me, but I accept myself exactly the way I am’.
This can take time to get used to and at first you won’t believe the words you’re saying, but if you continually only feed good thoughts, you’ll start to realise that maybe everyone else isn’t thinking bad things about you.
It can be a long process before you start to see a difference in your confidence, but it’s worth the hard work for the end result. You chose this career because you enjoy it, so don’t let your negative thinking take that love away from you.
That’s exactly what the fear is. It’s mentally thinking you’re not good enough and allowing your thoughts to affect your actions.
The best tip of all is to never give up and strive to be a better speaker each time. Learn to enjoy your speeches more by opting for subjects that you’re comfortable talking about and that interest you. You’ll find that as you become more prepared for your speeches you’ll believe in yourself enough to not fear what other people think of you.