Why is it that so many people are scared witless of speaking in public?
Surveys show that some of us are more afraid of public speaking than we are of death!
Too many of us have the idea that public speaking is a talent that you’re born with—or aren’t.
In truth, great speakers are made, not born and anyone can learn to deliver a speech like a pro.
Whether it’s speaking at a town hall meeting or making a presentation at work, most of us will have the need to step up to the podium at some time. Why not learn how to deliver an effective speech right now? Here are some hints for overcoming your fears and mastering the art of speaking in public.
Admit you’re scared.
The main underlying reason for the phobia about public speaking is fear of the unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you get up there on the podium and open your mouth. Will you forget your speech? Will you lose your voice? Will people laugh at you? When you look at these fears rationally, they don’t make much sense. None of these are very likely, are they? Identifying your fear will help you to conquer it.
Face your fears.
When your fears are amorphous, free-floating things like ghosts, it’s easy to be afraid of them. Look carefully at each of your fears and face them, one at a time. Pretty soon, you’ll be so comfortable with those former fears that you’ll see how unimportant they really are. Vow to take on those fears and triumph over them. Sometimes you have to be willing to take the plunge and just do it!
Stop sabotaging yourself.
If you keep telling yourself that you can’t speak in public and will never be an effective speaker, then you won’t be one. Not because there’s any physical or organic reason you can’t do it, but because you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t. How do you even know if you’re terrible at something you’ve never tried? Instead, tell yourself that with a bit of work, you can be a good public speaker. Repeat his mantra over and over. Then get to work!
Take a public speaking course.
Anything is scary when you have no idea what you’re doing! Nothing can raise your confidence and allay your fears like taking a course in public speaking. Some companies make these a requirement for rising execs, but just about any of us can benefit from mastering the ins and outs of speaking before a crowd. You never know when you’ll want to protest your city’s trash collecting policies or help a friend run for local office.
We are making progress but now it’s time to make a plan and overcome your fear so you can deliver a compelling speech to your audience. Keep reading for some easy ways to put your fears to rest.
Have a plan.
You can start out by writing your speech on a piece of notebook paper and scribble changes in the margins, but before you actually deliver it, make a formal presentation. Start entering your text into a document with title, bullet points and subheds. Organize your information. Move topics around until you find the best order. The more coherent and organized your speech is, the easier it will be to deliver.Be prepared.
Are you afraid of forgetting your lines? Rehearse until you have them down pat, and put your speech on cards or a tablet so that you can consult your notes if you need to. Worried about not having your props? Pack them in your bag ahead of time. If you’re lying in bed worrying about what could go wrong, isolate each possibility and ask yourself what you can do to prevent the problem. If you have to get out of bed and do something to help you be more prepared, then do it—provided you go back to bed and get a good night’s sleep!
Act confident, even if you don’t feel that way.
Remind yourself that the audience doesn’t know how scared you are.
While you may be thinking that everyone can see that your stomach is in knots and you feel like throwing up, they can’t see what’s going on inside your head (or your stomach). Fake it til you make it! Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and put on a great big smile. Looking and acting confident can inspire trust in your audience—and distract them from the fact that your knees are knocking together.
Practice, practice, practice.
Set up your laptop or smartphone to make a video of your speech rehearsals. Look at the results with an open mind and see how you can improve your presentation. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but do note the things you can improve upon. Practice makes perfect, and this is the surest way to look at yourself from the outside and perfect your speech before giving it. If you have trouble pronouncing some words, maybe you should change them, or practice saying them until you get them right. The more often you deliver your speech, the better you will get at making your words flow effortlessly. For your very first speech, you may need to do this 20 or 30 times before you have it down, but the time spent will pay off in the long run. Every successive speech will be easier and require less prep time.
Record your performances.
Use that same phone or laptop to record every speech you deliver. Compare how the actual performance compares to your rehearsals. Strive to make every speech better than the last.
Breathe deeply and relax.
Practice a few breathing exercises to help you relax before going onstage. The calmer and more relaxed you feel, the more you can concentrate on delivering your speech.
Don’t get rattled.
If you do forget a point or make a mistake, just take a deep breath and keep moving ahead. No one expects you to be perfect, so why expect it of yourself? We know from watching last year’s presidential debates that practically every candidate made a gaffe or two at some time. If the people who want to run this country can’t get everything right all the time, it’s not very realistic to expect perfection from the rest of us! Don’t take it too seriously.
Reward yourself for a job well done.
After you’ve successfully delivered your speech, give yourself a pat on the back. Congratulate yourself for overcoming your fears. You’ve achieved a milestone, and any speech you give in the future will be much easier!
||Written on 10/16/2013 by Linda Cauthen.
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