You start to shake a little bit. Your hands are a little clammy. There’s this weird hole in your stomach that makes you feel like you haven’t eaten in days. You’re thinking it might not be too late to cancel. Except you’re already at the podium, in front of all these people. You can’t turn back now.
Some studies estimate that 75% of the public has some level of fear or anxiety around the thought of public speaking. Whether it’s in front of an auditorium of people, or just to a handful of coworkers, public speaking leaves people feeling queasy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. To overcome your fear of public speaking try these steps.
If you want to freeze and loose track of your message and stumble around your words, step up to the podium or take your place in front of a room and simply wing it. Otherwise do your homework first. Determine who your audience is. Prepare speaking points that will be of interest to them. Give them something that will teach or inspire them right off the bat to get them on your side. Or something that will make them laugh. Have a solid presentation on paper then prepare to give present it out loud.
That means practice, practice, practice. Give your speech to yourself in front of the mirror. Take note of your body language and what your face is doing. Give your speech to your dog. Give your speech to a friend. Give your speech to a couple friends. Start small and work your way up to larger crowds. Practice makes the words come easier. It’ll help you remember what comes next. It’ll give you more confidence as well.
While you’re doing all that practicing take note of your tone. Do you sound bored? Engaged? Nervous? Learn to modulate that in front of the mirror. Remind yourself to pause between thoughts. Give your audience a chance to absorb what you’re saying.
Talk slowly, breathe deeply
Taking a couple deep breaths automatically relaxes you. Take a couple of grounding, reassuring breaths before you get up to speak. If you are using cue cards or a paper, write “Talk Slowly” at the top. When you get nervous, you’ll start talking quicker without realizing it. That little reminder can keep you calm and help you realize it’s okay to give yourself small moments.
Pick someone out in the crowd
Generally, the fear that comes with public speaking has to do with the public part. We have no trouble talking with friends at a party or over coffee. But expand that number and feel the eyes of all those people on your person and all of a sudden your mouth dries out. Many people adept at public speaking pick a single person in the crowd and focus on them. By focusing on an individual you can imagine you’re delivering your speech to an audience of one.
Remember fear is normal
Finally, remember that getting nervous about public speaking is normal. Ask 75% of the public at large. However, just because you are worried about speaking in public, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it well!