If you have ever been asked to get up on stage and talk to a group of peers or strangers, then you know how scary this can feel. Yet when you ask anyone who does it professional, you will quickly see that they all started with the same self doubt.
Almost everyone has had a fear of public speaking at some point or another. It’s one of the biggest and most common fears in the world. However, with experience and practice, anyone can improve and reduce the fear of speaking in public and develop a great deal of self-confidence.
How To Handle Your Speaking Anxiety
Don’t worry about using big words to impress people. Speeches should sound conversational, and if words don’t come naturally, they won’t sound natural.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when delivering a keynote speech is that they try way too hard to gain the acceptance of the audience” says Alex Miller, editor at Keynote Speakers. “What people are looking for is authenticity and someone who feels comfortable being themselves. When they pick up on this, then they will trust you.”
Here are some simple tips you can use to deal with your anxiety:
- Avoid fidgeting and stand up straight while giving presentations. Don’t bite nails, scratch the head or tap the foot. Move, but make the movements flow with the speech rather than detract from it.
- Crossed arms and hands in pockets make it appear that the public speaker is either not interested in the speech or doesn’t care about the subject. Clenched hands indicate the speaker is either angry or uncomfortable, and hands on hips show defiance.
- Some subjects are too general. If there isn’t one main theme, the speech might veer off and ramble on endlessly. Stay focused.
- Don’t talk while looking down at notes. Memorize a line or two and then make eye contact with others before continuing the speech.
Be Prepared Or Fake It
Don’t begin your speech by explaining or apologizing. In other words, it’s not a good idea for speakers to mention how they’re not prepared or they’re not good at speaking.
According to John Rogan at Motivational Speaker, “The audience has no idea what you are going to say and what they can expect. Therefore, you can say anything you want so long as it is cohesive and makes sense. If you slip up, just keep going and don’t worry about the part you did not deliver. The audience has no idea.”
Get Public Speaking Help:
Consider joining Toastmasters for public speaking help. They form groups that help each other build speaking and leadership skills by practicing and critiquing each other. It’s an inexpensive way to get public speaking training that follows a manual and provides public speaking support. Joining a group like Toastmasters helps builds confidence in order to overcome public speaking fears.
Other Public Speaking Success Tips:
Take time to mingle with the audience before the speech. It will give both the speaker and the audience time to get know each other and feel more comfortable.
Practice the speech ahead of time by looking in the mirror using natural movements. Tape-record or videotape the speech to listen and/or watch the presentation. This is an easy way to prepare and make corrections, which will help in overcoming anxiety. Then try the speech out on friends and family so that they can give feedback and tips on public speaking.
- Props like flip charts and power point presentations come in handy, because they break the speech up and give everyone another focus. Do practice using the props along with the speech so it will flow smoothly.
- Be aware of pitch and tone when presenting a speech. Purposely lower and slow the voice down in order to sound more natural. High pitched, fast paced speeches should be avoided because it portrays nervousness.
- There’s nothing wrong with using notes, as long as long as the speaker raises his or her head before addressing the audience. Keep the key points of the speech on cards large enough to read from a distance.
- When writing the speech, consider working on the main body before coming up with the introduction. Since the main points are clear, the introduction will be better and come easier.
- Get organized and time the speech ahead of time. A speech will take approximately two minutes per double spaced typed page.
The most important aspect of preparing a speech is to practice and know the subject. The more prepared the speech looks and sounds, the more successful it becomes. This is why its important that you spend more time on becoming an expert on your topic: so you can talk about it in a way that feels natural and authentic.