As a Public Speaking instructor I readily come in contact with students that are
terrified of speaking in front of the class. Some speakers tremble and some uncontrollably shake. Some speakers talk extremely fast and some go blank. For some speakers it's their hearts that race and others become red in the face.
How many of you have similar anxieties about speaking
in front of a group? Many people do. In fact, the fear of
public speaking has been listed as greater than the fear
of death (but not as much as the fear of snakes).
The following material includes tips and advice to
help you reduce your anxiety associated with speaking in public.
Why are we afraid of speaking in public?
The reason most people get anxious when required to
speak to a group is that they are afraid of looking
foolish or stupid in front of many of their peers and
important people. They are afraid that their mind will go
blank or that their lack of speaking skills will lower
the opinion others have of them.
Being humiliated can destroy a person's ego and
confidence. It can really ruin your day too.
Steps you can take to reduce the fear. In most cases the fear or nervousness is just extra energy. This "extra energy" can be incorporated in the speech if it is controlled, however, you first must attempt to reduce the fear. The easiest way to do this is through preparation.
There are several steps and tricks to use to learn how to reduce the fear of making a mistake or looking foolish when you
speak to a group:
- Be well-prepared in what you do before a group
- Have a backup, in case you forget what you want
- Realize that the audience is on your team -- they want you to succeed
- Practice, practice, practice
In the following material, I will explain each of
Be well prepared
One of the best ways to make
sure you don't make foolish mistakes is to be well
prepared before you speak to a group. This doesn't mean
to memorize exactly what you plan to say. Rather, it is
to have a good outline of facts and information that you
can talk about.
A professional in any field does
not leave anything to chance before a big game, important
performance, or critical presentation to corporate
executives. Strategies are laid out, all material is
ready, contingency plans are made, and every detail is
taken care of.
When we don't prepare -- we prepare to fail.
When you are well prepared,
chances of failure or goof-ups are greatly reduced. You
feel more relaxed and sure of yourself, because you have
all the bases covered.
Have a backup
It is worthwhile to bring
along a "security blanket" or "safety
net" in case something goes wrong in your
presentation. For example, having your speech outlined on
some sort of cards or pages is a good backup in case you have a
mental lapse. Referring to your notes is certainly
acceptable to refresh your memory.
Of course, though, you should be
prepared enough that you don't have to completely depend
on your notes for your material. Don't use your notes/speaking outline as
a crutch, but to keep you on track.
Reduce your fear of your
Speaking to peers, employers, instructors, or
dignitaries can create fear in a person. This fear can be
reduced by visualizing the people as equals. Think about your audience
as being on "your team."
Become one with your audience. Don't build an artificial wall between you and your audience. Direct eye contact can create a oneness between you and your audience. Use the abundance of energy that your audience is capable of projecting to you. Use the Force Luke. Let the audience be with you.
Remember that they are
on your team and they are there to hear what you have to
Even if you know your material
very well, practice is extremely important. The more you
give a talk, the more automatic it becomes, the more energy
it can have, and the more confidence you have in your
abilities to give the speech.
Practice out loud; alone; to small groups;
to friends; to relatives; to strangers; to pets; to roommates.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Now some people say that Practice makes
Perfect. I believe that Perfect Practice makes Perfect. So treat your practice
just like you treat the speech on speech day. For example if you want to have
energy and enthusiasm on speech day, then you will want to Practice with
energy and enthusiasm.
The way to reduce the
fear, nervousness, and anxiety of speaking to a group is to make sure you are well
prepared, have some backup material (note cards or a speaking outline)
ready in case you need it, visualize your audience as part of your team,
and practice (the way you want to give the speech on speech day)
as much as you can before you speak.