How to Not Be Nervous When Public Speaking
Do you have a fear of public speaking?
If you are afraid of public speaking, you’re not alone. According to Psycom, it is estimated that 75% of all people experience anxiety or nervousness to some degree when it comes to public speaking. Reactions can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic, and many people are so afraid that they avoid public speaking altogether or else suffer through the experience with sweaty, shaking hands and a quivering voice. Also known as glossophobia or speech anxiety, Wikipedia defines it as a feeling of nervousness, dread, and concern that is accompanied by a feeling of discomfort.
Rest assured that even the most seasoned speaker and actor experiences some sort of stage fright and everyone has to get “warmed up”.
However, with proper preparation and the utilization of effective strategies, tools and techniques, you can push through your fear of public speaking even though you may never really enjoy it. It just takes practice.
What do the experts say?
Why are we so afraid of speaking publicly? Experts in image consultant training say that sometimes the fear is rooted in a prior negative or painful experience when we were young. When I was twelve, I remember winning a French speaking competition and I had to recite the poem later in front of the whole school. Nearing the end, I forgot my lines for many agonizing minutes. For decades that was the end of my public speaking career!
According to current theories on the fear of public speaking, there are several contributing factors:
When we are exposed to a potentially threatening situation, fear and anxiety result from the hyperarousal of the autonomic nervous system. When we are confronted with a threat, our bodies go on alert and prepare for battle. This leads to the emotional experience of fear, which interferes with the ability to perform or speak comfortably.
This involves people’s beliefs about public speaking in general as well as personal assessments of themselves as speakers. Frequently, we have a fear of being judged. Let’s face it, we do judge and evaluate our speakers. However, if as the speaker we allow that fear to rule us,we are convinced we will fail. We hide behind a protective wall, limiting our ability to connect and build a relationship with the audience.
Certain situations are likely to make us anxious when presenting in public, such as:
- A lack of experience, so confidence hasn’t had a chance to build up yet.
- A new audience. You may be comfortable speaking to certain people, but a new audience can shake your confidence.
- Speaking in front of people in a higher position than your line of work may make you more fearful.
- If you are presenting something new, you may be anxious about how it will be received and your grasp on the subject.
Your present level of speaking skill can contribute greatly to your degree of confidence. The good news here is that you can work on enhancing your skill set to become a better speaker through practice, which will increase your overall confidence.
Common Tips for overcoming your fears – preparedness is key!
Here are some tips to help you overcome your fears of speaking in public:
- Know your topic, inside and out. The more thorough your understanding, the more confidence you will have and the better you will do. And if you get distracted for any reason, you will be able to recover quickly.
- Logically organize the information well in advance. 6 sentences or less on one page on a PowerPoint slide presentation is considered ample. Use more photos or illustrations than words and embellish your point. Don’t stun your audience into boredom by reading the PowerPoint.
- join a local speaking group to help refine your speaking skills. Toastmasters, as an example, is a nonprofit organization with local chapters across the country that focuses on training people in speaking and leadership skills. Another perk? You will be getting that first-time presentation of your work over and done with before the “real deal.”
- Record yourself on video and look for things that you can improve on. There will always be room for improvement, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Things often do go wrong:
Equipment doesn’t work properly, Find the technician beforehand and how to get in touch quickly.I will never forget. Once my Powerpoint was set automatically above my head. The only problem: it was set at twice the normal speed and no technician was in sight. I had to speak extra fast to get in all my comments.
Your talk doesn’t start on time. I will never forget this instance. Once the speaker before me decided to go over by 50 minutes.No arm-waving worked. The organizer eventually came on stage and told her politely that the conference was on a timeline. I had to slash my presentation and redesign what I had planned.
Being asked to finish early or running overtime. Time your talk for the time allotted and organize your content by starting with “Need to know” information and end with “Nice to know” information so that you can cut appropriately from the bottom. Learn how to convert exercises which are time consuming into verbal bullets which take less time.
- Visualize your success. Studies have repeatedly shown that this is an effective technique. Olympic athletes have used this technique for decades with amazing success. And the positive thoughts themselves can help reduce some of your anxiety.
- Practice deep breathing. Our breath tends to become shallow when we’re in the “fight or flight” state, so focus on deep-breathing techniques before and during your presentation.
- Think of your talk as a conversation with your audience and the more you engage them by questions and answers, paired sharesand group activities the less bored they will get. Remember that people are there to hear what you have to say; they are on your side and want to see you succeed.
- And, finally, acknowledge your success! You made it through. It may not have been perfect, but very likely you were more critical of yourself than your audience was. Look at your mistakes simply as feedback and as an opportunity to improve your skills and delivery next time.
Everyone gets at least a little nervous before a public speech — even the pros. Keep in mind that a little nervousness can be a good thing. It keeps us sharp, and it shows that we care about doing a good job. Use that adrenalin to your advantage by being on your toes and never flag. If the audience flags give them a really engaging exercise
Remember why you are doing this. You want to share your knowledge to help your audience. Here is my cardinal rule. As long as people can leave sufficiently interested to share about your talk or even one snippet they enjoyed, you have done your job.