Snakes? Fine. Flying? It’s no problem. Speaking in front of an audience? Yikes! Even the prospect of public speaking, which is sometimes considered one of the greatest (and most common) fears, can make your palms sweat. Even the most self-assured among us can be intimidated by it.
It’s believed that up to 75% of Americans experience some anxiety about public speaking. The phobia of public speaking, known as glossophobia, is more common than you might believe. But don’t give up! Even the deepest fears and anxieties can be overcome if you follow these easy steps:
1. Prepare and practice
Everyone experiences physiological reactions such as pounding hearts and shaking hands. Do not associate these feelings with the fear of doing poorly or embarrassing yourself. Some nerves are helpful. The rush of adrenaline that causes you to sweat also makes you more attentive and ready to perform at your best.
The easiest method to combat anxiety is to prepare. Work on your speech to craft an effective message. Make sure you review your notes numerous times. Practice—a lot—once you’ve gotten acquainted with the material. Make a video of yourself or have a friend watch it and give you feedback.
2. Speak slowly
Because of nerves and the need to appear energetic, most speakers wind up speeding through their presentations faster than they expected. But, unfortunately, they never realize how quickly they speak since they don’t have a dialogue partner to provide a counterweight.
Listeners will be more attentive if you speak slowly and deliberately, and you will appear more thoughtful and in control. It also gives you some time for forethought, allowing you to make fewer mistakes.
3. Relax your body language
Fear of public speaking can make you tense, which impacts your body language badly. The most effective public speakers maintain appropriate posture, eye contact with the audience and move naturally.
Body language enhances your performance by assisting the audience in absorbing and remembering what you say. Avoid crossing your arms or placing your hands in your pockets. Instead, start with your arms at your sides and convey your points with deliberate hand gestures.
Take a look around the audience. It’s very important to connect with your audience and eye contact plays a big role in this. The audience tends to disconnect with a speaker who fails to make eye contact, so scan the room and use eye contact to pull the audience into your speech. Don’t spend too much time staring at the ground or your notes. You might even start making eye contact with individual persons watching your presentation as your confidence grows.
4. Make sure your tone is suited to the message
Make sure your delivery style complements your content when giving a public speech.
If you’re speaking at your annual sales meeting and want to encourage your colleagues, for example, you should employ a loud, energetic, and motivating delivery style. However, if you were delivering a presentation about world famine, that same style would be inappropriate.
The point is that the content of your presentation should drive your presentation style in large part—so make sure your presentation style matches your content.
5. Make a memorable first impression
Plan your introduction to go beyond your educational and professional background. First impressions count so be sure to make the right first impression. Ask yourself, how do you want the audience to perceive you and why is this presentation important to you. Answer these questions and you will create the right headspace to be in while you speak. To create a memorable opening, you can use a powerful anecdote, humor or statistics or facts, or even rhetorical questions. What actions have you taken that have shaped you into the person you are now? To make yourself memorable, provide such information in your introduction. Humor is your ally; for example, self-deprecating remarks are often well-received by the audience.
6. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style
You might be tempted to observe a popular speech and try to emulate the presenter’s manner, but this can be detrimental. Instead, to use in your presentations, develop your style and voice.
When you keep practicing speaking and take up opportunities to speak in front of audiences, chances are you’ll be able to discover a style that fits your personality while still attracting attention. Trying to imitate someone else’s style will almost always make you look like a poor knockoff when your personality would suffice.
7. Engage with the audience
Get your audience involved from the start if you want them to hang on to every word you say. We recommend opening your speech in a way that allows the audience to relate to it right away. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including:
- Posing a thought-provoking question to the audience
- Telling a narrative that piques their interest
- Providing a sneak peek of what the audience will learn
To get the audience involved in your speech right away, you could consider asking for a physical movement, such as a show of hands, if individuals identify with anything.
Your body language and nonverbal cues too play an important role in engaging your audience. Stay present in the moment and not rush from one thought to another because that’s a sure shot way to lose your audience.
8. Ask for feedback
There will always be space for improvement, no matter how comfortable you become with public speaking—which is why getting feedback is so vital.
Getting direct feedback from your audience can help you identify areas to improve your presentation style and make it more engaging. It will also provide you insights into what works, where you shine, and what your audience connects with—all of which can help you feel more confident about your next presentation.
9. Speak as often as possible
If you want to improve your public speaking skills, you should gather as much practice as possible, which involves taking advantage of as many speaking chances as you get.
If you’re terrified of speaking in front of a group, you might be tempted to pass up opportunities to do so. But don’t do it! The more you present in front of a group, the more at ease you will become with the process—and, as a result, the better speaker you will become.
10. Enroll in a public speaking course
Consider joining a public speaking program
Students develop critical skills that increase their ability to speak and present in front of crowds by attending public speaking classes. In addition, they acquire confidence through learning from experts and relying on their peers for help. If you’re afraid of public speaking, you can connect with other students facing the same problem.
Consider taking an online public speaking course if you want to improve your public speaking skills. You might also be able to join student clubs that will allow you to practice public speaking.
Taking public speaking lessons at school, especially early on, can help you excel in the rest of your studies and give you a leg up on the competition when it comes time to start your career.
Fuel the power of your communication for the success you truly deserve!