Public Speaking: How to Overcome your Fears

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
― Jerry Seinfeld

Shaky legs, sweaty palms, racing heart, nauseating churn in your gut…

If this is you on the podium before your speech, rest assured that 75% of the audience is glad they are “not you” at this moment.

Fear of public speaking or glossophobia ranks high on the biggest fears list.

Does it help knowing that you’re not alone in feeling like this?

Let’s face it: your flight or fight reaction is the body’s primal response to a scary situation. You can try to avoid speaking in public all you want, but in real life, at some point you’ll be asked to undertake a presentation at work, give a speech at a social function, or even a toast at a birthday or wedding.

Accomplished speakers and successful people weren’t born with speaking skills. Many of them, too, feel unsettled before an important event. But they never give into their fears. If they can get over it, so can you.

Here’s a couple of tips to help you overcome your nerves and give the best speech possible.

  • If you have the choice, speak on a familiar topic, an interesting one, or something based on your experiences. This may be difficult in a company setting if your knowledge of the product or service is limited, however this can be overcome by thoroughly researching the subject and talking to experts. Take notes and organize your thoughts into a short script for additional support.
  • We usually focus on bad scenarios when faced with unfamiliar situations. Do the exact opposite for your next speech. Imagine a confident YOU stepping out on stage and each member of an audience as a friend who is hanging on to your every word. Do it often enough and you’ll get a handle on your fears.
  • Tell stories whenever possible. Use a memorable, funny, or painful story from daily life in your opening lines. The audience is more receptive of an idea when they can relate to it. For a product launch or demo, a related anecdote from work often breaks the barrier between you and your listeners.
  • Before actually presenting, record yourself giving your presentation and analyze it. Pay attention to your voice and delivery. Are you pacing it well by varying your sentences and creating a good flow? Study your body language. Do you come across as stiff and uncomfortable? Are your gestures distracting? Do you address the audience in a friendly manner? Improve, improvise, and practice your speech until you get it right.
  • Relax before the presentation. Take a walk, listen to soothing music, or just focus on slowing your breathing. Make small talk with a few audience members or your team – knowing that you already have a connection with a few members of the audience does wonders for confidence building. Also, drink warm water before you begin as it will open your throat and relax your vocal chords.

Don’t fight it or run away, but accept the situation and manage your fears. Stop imagining yourself failing, inject some personality into your speech, and enjoy yourself.

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