If you are one of the 10% of people who are absolutely terrified of public speaking, then you may feel completely helpless at the vision of improving. Thankfully there are a number of tips and tricks out there that can help you become a confident, eloquent speaker regardless of the size of the audience you face.
This article will give you an overview of suggestions designed to help you become a better public speaker.
For many people the fear of public speaking is directly linked to a fear of making mistakes. The familiar nightmare of standing in front of a crowd, spluttering and frantically searching through notes is all too common.
The fear of failure can be overcome to a large extent by ensuring that you are thoroughly prepared for your speech, presentation, or interview. Often speakers find that their initial anxiety is lessened by the comforting cycle of writing, reading, repeating, and performing their speech.
If you have the time, start your preparation by doing as much ‘homework’ as you can. Start with the venue – pay it a visit before the time to get a sense of the space, and to make yourself a little more familiar with the building. This ensures you won’t be walking into a room you don’t know.
Next up, ask the organizer for any information you can get about the audience. If you can get some data about their gender, age, and ethnicity then you can steer your discussion in a direction that they find engaging, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Practice, Practice, Practice
From a young age most of us are encouraged to practice our speeches in front of the mirror, but jumping to that point in the process can cripple your self-confidence. They key to efficient practice that builds your confidence is to find a routine that works for you.
Some speakers like to start by writing a long, rough draft of everything they want to say. This is then edited, tweaked and improved like an essay, until the messaging feels just right. This process also helps the speaker to learn the speech, resulting in a better delivery. A few dry runs through a speech you already know will do wonders for your confidence.
Other people took a less structured approach and jot down bullets they want to discuss. If you find that this is an approach that works for you then you may have to do more rehearsals to make sure that you link the points you’re making in a clear fashion.
Whatever your approach, the key to staying calm is practice. You will find that the more familiar you are with your material, the more comfortable you will be with the second element of the public speaking interaction – the audience.
Coping with the Audience
Many people are confident and outgoing, even compelling speakers among their friends or colleagues, but find themselves unable to speak in public. There are a number of factors at play here, but the good news is that your fear of the audience can be overcome with a similar approach to the writing of your material.
Once again, there are a number of different techniques available to help you cope with your discomfort. These range from ignoring the audience completely to embracing embarrassment – again, you will need to find an approach that seems to work best for you.
Having said that, certain calming and relaxation techniques can help you maintain your heart rate and manage your stress throughout the public speaking process. One highly-effective and easy technique that you can add to your public speaking ritual is a series of breathing exercises designed to reduce anxiety.
The idea here is to introduce more oxygen into your blood stream, which will help you slow your heart rate and stay focused. Also, taking a moment to calm yourself and regain your composure does wonders to help you find your inner speech skills.
Take a breath, remember that you are well prepared, and try to enjoy yourself – remember, it’s completely normal to make little errors and nobody in the audience is going to criticize you for the odd slip up.
Do What Works for You
Whether you seek the help of a therapist to find the cause of your anxiety, rely on routine learning methods, or become a master of breathing techniques, you can become a successful public speaker and overcome your fears. Everyone is different, but following these tips may help you surprise yourself and the crowd hanging on your every word.
About the Author
I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify