Tips to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking
May 18, 2011
“The idea of making a presentation in public is the No. 1 fear reported by people in the U.S.” according to Paul L. Witt, PhD, on WebMD. People are more afraid of making a speech than they are of rattlesnakes or even death. It’s true that public speaking can be frightening, but it shouldn’t be debilitating. If you suffer from stage fright, there are several things you can do to overcome your fear. Read on!
- The first and most important step is to be totally prepared. With preparation comes confidence. Brush up on whatever topic you’ll be speaking about and then “teach” it to a friend before you ever write your speech. This will help you get ideas for your presentation and may also help you identify the areas you need to study more. Once you’re 100% confident with your topic, write your presentation, but don’t write it out word for word. We’ve already established that you’re an expert on this topic; so instead, write an outline that highlights key talking points. These will serve as reminders to help you move seamlessly through your speech.
- Now that your presentation is ready, it’s time to practice, practice, practice. Get in front of a mirror or even take a recording of yourself giving the speech. Watching yourself, you’ll be able to analyze your delivery and work on it until you get it to a place where you feel comfortable. Then practice in front of your friends and family until you have it down.
Don’t rely on crutches.
- It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need crutches (notecards, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) because you already know your topic. An entertaining graphic here and there or maybe a supplemental video can be a nice addition to a presentation, but don’t rely on these tools. The most uncomfortable mistakes happen when presenters are reading their speeches word for word and lose their place. It’s much better to keep your presentation condensed to a few key points and rely on your knowledge instead.
Keep calm and carry on.
- Remember – the audience has absolutely no idea when you “mess up.” They’ve never seen your presentation before. Don’t stop and apologize or think about what it was you were going to say. If you just move on calmly to the next point, nobody will ever know the difference.
- There is nothing more comforting (for you and the audience) than a smile. It will not only show the audience that you’re feeling confident, it will make you feel more confident too. There are studies that indicate that smiling may actually reduce the symptoms of anxiety, so show off those pearly whites and you’ll be golden.
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