Is there anything more anxiety-inducing than public speaking? Do you get sweats and shakes at the mere thought of getting up on stage? You’re not alone. Glossophobia or the fear of public speaking affects around a quarter of the population. Some people seem to ooze effortless charisma in front of hundreds or even thousands. Being the center of attention is enough to cause nightmares for the rest of us.
However, public speaking is an intrinsic part of life. Presentations, best man speeches, conferences, pitches, group meetings, and more all involve standing up and speaking. The fear of public speaking can be a detriment to our lives and career, therefore.
Public speaking is a skill like any other. Only, rather than learning in private – where our mistakes are hidden – to master public speaking, we need to put ourselves out of our comfort zone, where everyone can see us.
How to Improve Your Fear of Public Speaking
This article will provide solid and practical tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Don’t let this phobia hold you back. Everyone can learn to speak in public – here are a few techniques to help you out.
What causes a fear of public speaking?
Humiliation? Embarrassment? Bad impression? It’s not hard to imagine why we might be nervous. Yet, we rarely assume the worst in every other aspect of our lives. No one refuses to cross the road for fear of being hit by a car. And if they did, we’d call their fears what they are – a phobia: an irrational fear.
That’s what the fear of public speaking is – an anxiety disorder.
But just like any other phobia, it can be solved through simple but practical techniques.
How to improve your fear of public speaking
Understanding the reason behind your fear of public speaking can help you master the skill. But you’ll also need to practice some key techniques. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Get organized
You’ll want to limit any sources of unnecessary anxiety. If you’re already nervous about public speaking, don’t add extra stress by being unprepared.
Plan your speech out in advance. Think about its structure. How will you grab the audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds? How long does it need to be?
Once you’ve got your speech prepared, practice, practice, practice. The more you go over your speech, the more ingrained the presentation will be in your mind. No matter your nerves, you’ll know it so well; it’ll be like second nature.
2. Familiarize yourself with the environment
Anxiety is caused, in part, by the unknown. Make sure you know where you will be speaking. If you can, scope out the place beforehand. Ask questions about the presentation area. Will there be a podium? Where will you wait before the speech? Will there be a microphone?
Anticipating what will happen and playing it through in your mind can reduce the anxiety when the moment of truth arrives.
3. Record yourself and listen
Don’t just read it aloud. It’s almost impossible to hear ourselves. While feedback from friends and family is helpful, it’s no substitute for hearing yourself speak.
Like an athlete watching their gameplay, listening to your speech can tell you what needs improvement. Were you speaking too fast? Did you enunciate all your words? Did you “um” and “err” too often? Are you speaking in monotone?
Perfecting your speech will give you the confidence to know you can do this. It’ll also habituate you to your speaking style, helping you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Breathing is an antidote to anxiety. When we get anxious, our biological “fight-or-flight” response kicks in—adrenaline courses through our system. We feel jittery, our heart pounds, and our breathing rate increases.
If you find yourself panicking – take a moment to breathe.
Center yourself. Calm down. Then, continue where you left off. You can even use your breath as a sort of a metronome, setting the rhythm to your speech. A common mistake is to ramble or speak too quickly. Breathing alleviates this rush of anxiety.
Remember – the best speeches are where people take their time. Listen to some famous speeches, and notice their pace and their pauses.
5. Get feedback
Think you’ve got your speech mastered? How about a second opinion. Ask someone you trust to listen to your speech and get their feedback. This has two key benefits: first, it gives you an insight into how you performed. Second, it works like exposure therapy – you confront your fear of speaking in front of someone.
If you’re still struggling, don’t struggle alone. Taking a public speaking class might be costly, but it’s a worthy investment. From simple community courses to professional public speaking classes, mastering public speaking has never been easier.
And you’ll likely earn back the benefits over your life and career.
6. Visualize success
Our fear of public speaking comes, in part, from our visualization of disaster. We catastrophize. We imagine that we’re going to bomb… hard. Well, if you expect failure, you’ll get failure.
Do the opposite: visualize success. Watching yourself succeed mentally makes it a lot easier to do it in practice. Avoid negative thoughts and nagging doubts. Tell yourself that you will succeed.
You should also pat yourself on the back after your speech. Don’t reinforce your fear. No matter how well you did, remember, you conquered your fear. That’s the first step in becoming a better public speaker. No one is perfect the first time. Everyone makes mistakes. So, recognize your success and reward yourself – you earned it!
7. Take a pause
Silence is as important to public speaking as spaces are to writing. Noonecanunderstandifyoudontpause. In fact, pausing to recollect your thoughts, or emphasize a point, can be a powerful tool in your public speaking arsenal. It’s a moment for the audience to reflect. For instance, waiting for a few seconds after an emotional story adds weight and drama.
And it gives you a moment to rest before moving on.
Get over your fear of public speaking
Do you want to get over your fear of public speaking? Contact Speech and Voice Enterprises today and learn about our online 2-Day Public Speaking Seminars, accent reduction, voice improvement training, and more online public speaking courses today!