For many people, the fear of public speaking ranks right up there with undergoing a root canal procedure or facing a tax audit.
That’s too bad. Eliminating your fear of speaking in public is not as difficult as you might think. Plus, the skills and confidence you gain are useful in today’s competitive, customer service-oriented marketplace.
Whole courses are devoted to public speaking. We can only touch on the fundamentals here. The rest is up to you. If you follow these tips, your speaking anxiety will diminish and you will be more confident in front of an audience. Indeed, you will actually enjoy speaking in public.
Tips for speaking in public
Speak often Hate to burst your bubble, but you won’t overcome your public speaking fears by reading this column (or any other material). You have to get up and speak. But it need not be a formal event. Give a toast at a reunion, birthday party or anniversary. Provide the reading at your church or house of worship. Speak at Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions clubs meetings. Take advantage of any opportunity to speak in public.
Be prepared This goes without saying. Do your research, write your notes, and prepare any necessary handouts or equipment. Rehearse your presentation and test your audio/visual equipment. Confidence in your material and equipment builds confidence in you.
Survey the room Arrive early so you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Note any acoustical or other logistical issues (for example, outside noise and sight barriers) that you must overcome. Walk the front of room so that becomes familiar, too.
Test equipment again Regardless of how smoothly your laptop and projector worked during your rehearsal, you must test them again. There’s no better way to ruin a presentation—and give you a case of the jitters that’ll last a lifetime—than to have equipment fail.
Greet audience members as they arrive Get to know them by asking probing questions. You may learn of additional needs or concerns you can address. Your presentation takes on a less formal tone. It’s as if you’re talking with friends and colleagues.
Stand in front prior to introduction Remain up front but off to the side. Scan the room to further familiarize yourself with that sea of faces and eyes. Taking your place at the lectern becomes less of a shock.
Start strongly Open with a powerful question or comment to grab your audience’s attention.
Focus on your material Deliver solid information in a professional manner, and your audience will concentrate on that instead of you.
Don’t dwell on nervousness Odds are it won’t show, and most will evaporate within a couple minutes.
Put that energy to work Use any nervous energy to add life to your presentation. Imagine there’s a small power plant inside you radiating energy. Tap that energy source to enhance your voice and gestures. If your audience senses you’re excited about the material, they will be as well.
Avoid negative thoughts Some audience members may appear to be uninterested. It’s probably because they’re dwelling on some pressing matter. Don’t let that bother you. Press on with your presentation.
Remind yourself who’s the boss You’re the expert. That’s why you were chosen to speak. Pump yourself up with powerful thoughts, such as “I’m the expert, and I’m going to wow them with this material.” Remind yourself regularly as your speech progresses.
Don’t let a minor gaffe derail you Compensate–crack a small joke at your expense, if you wish–and plow on.
Overcoming your fear of public speaking isn’t difficult. First, you must convince yourself that it is possible. Then, using these tips for public speaking, get out and speak as often as you can. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you become comfortable in front of an audience.
For related reading, see “How to give a presentation when disaster strikes” and “More tips for an effective presentation.”
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