One of the most common questions people ask me is: How do I overcome my fear of public speaking?
As a public speaking expert and a performer, I’m not afraid of being on stage. But I get nervous before every speech. Nervousness is a normal, healthy reaction to the thought of speaking in public. In fact, I find it gives me energy and adrenaline which block out other distracting thoughts and make me a more engaging speaker.
But what do you do when the nerves overwhelm you? When the mere thought of speaking in public makes your stomach turn in knots?
I like to break down the fear and find out what specifically is causing it, so I can control all the variables.
- Are you nervous about your subject? Do your research when preparing your speech so you know your field, its controversies, and its recent developments. Focus on the one main message you want the audience to remember.
- Are you nervous about the audience? Ask the organizer what kinds of people will be in the room; arrive early so you can meet people and get to know them. Suddenly, they are not strangers.
- Are you nervous about the room? Arrive early to get a feel for the room; bring a friend or colleague to help with AV (and to provide a smiling face).
- Are you nervous about potential questions? Anticipate all the questions you think you’ll receive and practicing answering them in front of a friend or colleague.
- Are you nervous that you’ll lose your train of thought? Reduce your written speech to bullet points and bring them to the podium, so if you lose your place you can pause, glance down, and then keep going.
By systematically breaking down your fear of public speaking, you reduce the fear to a series of actionable steps which make you more confident, more relaxed, and more excited about your message. Throw in some deep breathing and stretching exercises (which I learned as a singer), practice as much as you can, and you’ll be ready to inspire the crowd.
These are some of my tips; what are some of your tips to overcome the fear of public speaking?