Does the thought of speaking in front of a room of people make your stomach queasy, palms sweaty and voice shaky? You’re not the only one! Many adults fear public speaking, but in the business world, it’s almost impossible to avoid having to do it. So, how do you get over this paralyzing, crippling fear of public speaking? Here are a few tips I have used:
Focus on the audience.
Have you ever been told to avoid eye contact with the audience and direct your gaze elsewhere around the room to ease your nerves or imagine they are all naked? Although this is popular advice, it’s not effective in easing your nerves. The right way to get over your public speaking fears is to focus carefully on the audience. Focus on the people listening to you will help you take attention away from your inner thoughts, which at this point are probably full of self-doubt and negativity. Silence this inner voice by paying attention to the people in the room instead of focusing on your thoughts.
Practice in the mirror.
If you can’t perform your speech in front of your own reflection, you won’t be able to do it in front of a crowd so practice, practice, practice. Take note of your body language and facial expressions to see what kind of impression you’re giving off. The audience will respond well if you appear welcoming and project a sense of calm, so work on controlling nervous gestures and relax your facial features so you don’t seem tense and closed off to your listeners.
Nail the intro.
Nerves tend to be the worst during the first few minutes of your speech. How you perform during this crucial time period will determine how you approach the rest of your speech, so it’s important to nail the introduction. What will happen if you make a slip up in the beginning? That inner voice, you know the one that’s been telling you about everything that could go wrong, will work you up and amplify your jitters for the remainder of your speech. Nail the intro, and you’ll realize your fears were unfounded, making the rest of your speech easier.
If you feel a freeze coming on then pause and look around at the audience, if you can get the pause in at the right place, after or before a major point you will visibly see them think and that’s a confidence booster.
Make it personal.
As a public speaker, you’re not there to relay information and statistics as if you’re reading directly from an encyclopedia. Your job is to use the information and add your own personal twist to it. Maybe Inject personal stories and career advice into your speech to make it your own, and to grab your audience’s attention. Are you wondering how making a speech more impactful will help you calm your nerves? It’s simple, the more confident you are in your speech, the more relaxed you’ll be. Looking at public speaking as sharing a piece of your story with the audience and you will realise it’s natural really and not a big deal!
Do a practice run.
If possible, visit the room where you will be speaking in one day in advance. Where will you be standing in relation to the audience? Will the lights be shining in your face? Will there be a podium for you to place note cards on? Knowing the logistics of everything will help you ease your anxieties because you won’t have to worry about being unprepared. If your speech is accompanied with a presentation or visual, be sure to check what technological equipment is available for you to use. Don’t just check to see if it’s there, do a test run and make sure it actually turns on and works correctly!
The most effective leaders are often the greatest public speakers, so conquering this fear will be beneficial to you in the long run.