Five hacks to overcome the fear of public speaking
Public speaking is the number one universal fear. The emotions range from slight nervousness to people feeling as if they are going to pass out. Here are a few things you can do to help redirect your fear and connect with your audience:
Practice formal speech so it comes naturally when it counts. A big reason many people become fearful when asked to speak publicly is because they become self-conscious about the way they are going to sound. I have had many clients tell me they are afraid their words won’t come out right and they fear they will make mistakes. Well, if you only use colloquial or informal speech in your day-to-day interactions, it may become difficult to switch when the spotlight is on you. My advice is to practice formal speech. The best time and place is on your job. There is nothing wrong with slang and even dialect, unless that is the only way you know how to speak. The workplace is a great setting to practice your best speech, because it goes with your professional image. Leave slang words for after hours and heighten your awareness of the difference. You want the basics to be second nature; the last thing you want to think about at the podium is whether you are using proper speech.
Breathe. When we are nervous, anxious and even excited, we may forget to breathe. Breathing is fundamental. Before you walk up to the podium, practice deep rhythmic breathing – in through the nose, out through the mouth. Anxiety may cause us to inadvertently hold our breath. This makes us feel weak and lightheaded. Deep rhythmic breathing will stabilize, relax and help you to focus. It will add resonance to your voice and give you the power to increase your volume. Remember to breathe.
Re-frame the way you think about public speaking. In most cases, people are not looking to tear you down when you take the microphone. They are hoping for a good experience, so most are cheering you on. Usually when you are asked to speak, it is because there is a belief you have something of value to say, so remember this and bring it.
Create a conversation by starting with a question. One of the things that can make public speaking so hair-raising is people feel they have to get all ‘speechy’. The best public speakers are conversationalists. So, instead of beginning your talk by going into a monologue, you may find it helpful to open with a thought-provoking question instead. This can help you to feel more like you are about to have a conversation rather than give a speech, which can relieve some of your tension and engage your audience.
Focus on your audience. Self-consciousness is self-centeredness. When you walk out on that stage, stop focusing on yourself and serve your audience. Treat them like a guest in your home. Make them feel comfortable. What do we do when we want others to feel comfortable? We usually smile, we speak at a volume that makes it easy for them to hear and at a pace that is easy to follow. If we take interest in them, we do not just bombard them with words, but we adjust our tone and inflection to make sure they understand our sentiment. We pause from time to time to allow them to absorb what we have said. So, loosen up and take care of your audience. This approach leaves little space for self-absorption.
If you would like personalized coaching to become a better public speaker, send an email for information on my one-on-one or group coaching.
- Kim Welcome is CEO & founder of Influential Voice. She assists businesses and professionals to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills to increase their impact and influence. Her clients range from the country’s largest and most prestigious employers to public figures and individual professionals. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.