Strategies to overcome the fear of public speaking
Whether you are a seasoned pro or a novice to public speaking, we all get nervous from time to time before talking in front of an audience. Even the best public speakers admit that there are certain topics or audiences that have rattled their nerves, so it is nothing to be ashamed of.
If you are a nervous public speaker or want to be prepared in case that anxiety ever strikes, having some helpful tips at the ready can keep you from losing your nerve or going off the deep end.
Strategies to overcome
1. Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques involve the control of your breath, which reduces your heart rate, and to relax the tense muscles that result when your body expresses fear. Many techniques will work, so just do a quick search for “relaxation technique” to learn about the dozens that are out there. It is important that you start practicing these early in the preparation phase of your speech, and to continue practicing these regularly as the time for your talk nears.
2. Practice and Prepare
There is nothing that will calm your nerves like feeling as prepared as possible for your speech. The more you practice, the less you will be worried about forgetting what you want to say or losing your place. When practicing, be sure to include your visual aids, if you are using them, so you will feel confident with that distraction, as well. Also, practice in front of a mirror to watch your nonverbal cues as well as hear your words.
3. Think about what you want to communicate
Instead of worrying so much about your performance and how people will judge you, focus on how your information or demonstration will benefit your listeners. Your purpose is to inform, persuade, or entertain people, and that should be your focus.
Many people fear public speaking because they focus so much on how others will evaluate their performance and neglect to consider that what they have to say is valuable. Shifting your focus can help you to allay your fears.
4. Change your self-talk
One of the ways you can make your irrational fear of public speaking worse is the way you talk to yourself, which reinforces your anxiety and keeps you fearful through negative statements.
When you tell yourself, “I am not a good speaker,” you reinforce this notion and believe it. Instead, change these statements to positives, telling yourself that you are capable and have something worthwhile to say.
Repeating positive affirmations to yourself can help you to remain calm and overcome your fears of public speaking.
5. Speak more often
Getting better at public speaking happens when you engage more in public speaking.
The more experience you have with this activity, the more confident you will feel doing it. Start small. Look for opportunities to address small groups of close friends. Move up to making short speeches in front of colleagues or during work meetings. The more you do it, the better you will feel.
6. Get help from others
When trying to overcome your fear of public speaking, it can be helpful to work with others who have mastered this skill. Whether you go straight to a professional coach or you engage the help of friends or loved ones who display this skill, asking for help can give you perspective and advice that helps you to overcome your fears.
7. Breathe slowly and deeply
Deep breathing exercises will help to slow the physiological response to fear and calm your nerves. When you breathe deeply, you provide your body with more oxygen, which slows your heart rate and relaxes muscles. And taking deeper slower breaths makes you talk slower, which helps you relax more, too.
Creating a mental picture of completing a successful speech will help motivate you and give you confidence. What will it look and feel like when you are done, and the audience is clapping? Picturing your successful talk in vivid detail can help you get over any anxiety you may have.
When you smile, it releases endorphins, which can lower your anxiety and help you feel calmer. And smiling shows that you are confident, which can help you relax.
10. Exercise before your speech
If you know that you get nervous about speaking, be sure to do some exercise earlier in the day. Working out boosts your endorphins which will help you feel better.
11. Drink water now and then
One effect of nervousness is a dry mouth. And when your mouth feels sticky, you will feel even more afraid. Stay hydrated before your talk and before you have water nearby throughout. Do not be scared to stop and take a sip now and then as you are talking.
12. Stop worrying about perfection
No one is perfect, and it is okay to accept that you will not be either. Once you let go of the notion of perfection, you worry less about messing up and accept that it is all part of the experience. Just be yourself, and your audience will engage with you even more.
13. Work on eye contact
At the beginning of your speech, find four or five friendly faces in various parts of the room, and make eye contact with those people throughout your talk. When you smile at someone, their response will likely be to smile back, which boosts your confidence.
14. Meet the audience
If you can, talk with some members of the audience before your speech starts. Ask their names and find out why they have come. This will put you at ease when you see that these are only normal, everyday people, and you can incorporate anything you learn from them into your presentation.
15. Stand with power
Your body language can help you feel more confident. Try standing up straight, pushing your shoulders back and chest out, and placing your hands on your hips. When you feel powerful physically, you will embody confidence and assurance.
Using these ten tips, you can improve your confidence and relax, calm your jittery nerves, and feel ready to take on the world.
16. Attend a class
Some people really benefit from taking a course in public speaking. You can learn how to put together an effective speech, how to use your body language to communicate effectively, and strategies for improving your skills. You may also consider taking a drama class, which can enhance your confidence being on stage, help you learn to project more, and give you strategies for improving your body movements and facial expressions.
17. Don’t memorize your speech
The point of writing out your speech is not to create a script but to be sure you know all the main points you want to cover. Once you have written your speech script, practice delivering it in a conversational style as if you were talking with your best friend. It does not matter how you say it, but ensure you cover all the points.
The audience does not have a copy of your speech, so they will not know that you chose a different word or switched two sections. When you work from notes instead of a script, you will feel less nervous about forgetting and can better discuss your ideas and points.