Have you ever seen yourself standing on stage in front of thousands of judging eyes? – only to find out it was a nightmare. The fear of public speaking is so common it’s even in our subconscious. Yet, it’s not like the real thing is any better. Even seasoned performers report getting stage fright or a fear of speaking before putting a single foot on the stage.
In fact, over three-quarters of people experience some anxiety or nervousness from public speaking.
Little wonder – whether it be the expectation of an entertaining speech or the crushing fear of embarrassment, public speaking is amongst the most vulnerable yet confident things any of us can be expected to do.
So, if you struggle with a chronic fear of public speaking – you’re not alone! Nor are you doomed to dry up just when you need to start talking. Many people who found public speaking challenging overcame their fears. They’re now living to their full potential.
You can too! All you need is some excellent tips and a little guidance and advice for overcoming your fear of speaking. Here’s how you do it.
Fear of Public Speaking
What is the fear of public speaking?
Are you terrified of speaking in public? Do your hands shake, and your voice tremble? You might have a phobia of public speaking.
Glossophobia is the technical term for fear of public speaking. It’s a common fear and not often one we can control. After all, if you’re phobic about snakes or even heights, it’s not hard to avoid the situation. But the fear of speaking in public cannot be evaded.
Whether it be a team meeting at your company or standing in front of your church, public speaking is part of life. Even classrooms can leave some people trembling uncontrollably, sweating, with their heart pounding.
For such people, their academic, social, and career opportunities can be severely affected as a result.
Why does fear stop us from public speaking?
What happens when we climb on stage and gaze out? What are the common “symptoms”?
- Nervous speakers often talk rapidly, rushing through their speech in a monotone voice. There’s little or no excitement or audience engagement.
- People do not breathe deeply, tending to mumble certain words. Voice may even be quiet and hard to hear.
- In terms of body language, the person will be stiff and awkward. No movements of the arms; hands may be gripping at the podium. Legs may also shake uncontrollably.
- Avoidance of audience eye contact. Instead, their gaze could be either intensely focused on their notes or drifting aimlessly around the room.
- Sweating is another common sign of nervousness to speak.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? If so, you’ve likely had difficulty public speaking in the past. Overcoming this challenge is critical. Indeed, 82 percent of employees who couldn’t develop their social skills wouldn’t become high performers, according to Human Resource directors.
The fear of speaking will be different for each person. It may stem from shyness or anxiety of judgement. You may have failed at speaking in the past and carry those memories into future attempts.
Either way, fear triggers our body’s fight or flight response. That’s why your heart pounds, you sweat, and your mouth goes dry.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however.
How to overcome your fear of public speaking
To tackle your fear of speaking head-on, practice using the following five tips. These are proven to calm your nerves and improve your performance.
1. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Why do we make soldiers perform the same exercise again and again… and again? For fun? Nope. They do it so that when the moment comes when they would otherwise feel fear, their training kicks in, and they move on autopilot.
It’s the same for public speaking. The more you speak – be it in a virtual meeting, to friends or colleagues, in a mirror, or at a local event – the better you’ll get. The more at ease you’ll feel on stage as your brain adapts to the situation.
2. Take your time
The audience isn’t going anywhere. Nor will rushing through your speech make things better. So, take a deep breath, and slow your pace down. This will give you time to enunciate every word; to pause after you’ve made a point.
It’s also a chance to gather yourself. Each pause is like a little stepping stone guiding you through the speech.
And, best of all, you’ll actually breathe. Rather than taking shallow, rapid breaths – or not breathing at all – you’ll keep yourself calm and measured.
3. The beginning and the end
In psychology, there are two phenomena called the primacy and recency effect. It describes how the initial and final information presented take prominence over anything in the middle.
So, when crafting your speech, prioritize the beginning and the end. How are you going to hook the audience in? And what’s your memorable final paragraph or line?
4. Use backup slides
You’ve got through the speech successfully! Only, it’s question time, and you’re back to square one. Well, you could use the same logic. Create backup slides for potential audience questions. Not only will it give you extra points for preparation, but it also provides a prompt for you to speak from.
Add some graphs, a few data points, and whatever else you think will help support your argument.
5. Start small
Nobody can go from no public speaking experience to delivering an address in front of thousands. After all, public speaking isn’t an art or a science; it’s a craft. Like a carpenter-in-training, do not build a house on your first attempt. Develop your public speaking skills, starting at small events and building towards a big audience.
Aspiring comedians head down to the local comedy club to hone their skills. Public orators start with a small audience in schools or community centers.
Of course, you might not have a choice. Giving a toast at a wedding or eulogy at a funeral can seem daunting. But, taking a public speaking class can help speed up your progress.
We’ll provide further advice on honing your speaking skills (and banishing your fear of public speaking). So, request a consultation today if you want to master the craft and take your career and life to the next level.
Public Speaking & Business Communications Training
Need help with 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!