We've all been there at some point in our lives – you're standing in front of a room full of people, their eyes glued on you, and suddenly those dreaded symptoms and anxieties that come with fear of public speaking take control of your body and mind. The sweaty palms, the nausea, the dizziness, the lack of confidence, the shakes, the dripping beads of sweat on your forehead – the works. And they suck.
Interestingly, the fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of spiders or heights and is in fact considered a social anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health in the US reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects a whopping 73% of the population (1) – the underlying culprit being judgment from others. And thanks to 'brain freeze', the prospect of having an audience’s attention while standing in silence feels like total rejection and torture that can last for days.
Whether you're a middle school student or a CEO, fear of public speaking can affect anyone. Because it's so common, (thankfully) there are plenty of powerful tips and tricks, and exercises and techniques on how to overcome the fear of public speaking and deliver a killer speech or presentation with confidence. Here are 10 of the most powerful to keep in mind to help you speak naturally in public at your next event. See you later, nerves!
How to overcome public speaking anxiety fast
1. Repeat a confidence-building mantra
Create a mantra or a phrase you can repeat in your mind with a positive purpose to help you remember why you're here, like "It's not about me, it's about x, y, z". This can help provide you with a clear intention so you know exactly what your role is in this particular situation and boost your confidence naturally.
2. Breathe consciously
Making an effort to breathe from the lower belly or the diaphragm can activate the autonomic nervous system, more precisely your vagus nerve, which can help regulate stress. In doing so, your body and mind become more relaxed, you feel more in control of your emotions and thoughts, and you'll feel like you can give a natural yet prepared speech.
3. Plant your feet to the ground
When you make a conscious connection with the ground, you anchor yourself and naturally feel supported. This can give you both the physical and mental stability you need to begin your speech with strength and confidence. Find a strong position that you can practice beforehand and become comfortable with as your go-to.
4. Adopt an open and radiating chest
It's not about leaning in, it's about including everyone in. Pay attention to speaking to everyone in the room, not only the decision makers or colleagues you're used to. You can practice using your body language, hand gestures and eye contact in a mirror before your speech so that you can see clearly how or what you can change.
5. Use your hands to guide you
Find a comfortable resting hand gesture that you can come back to if you feel that you are not able to clarify your thoughts. This works like muscle memory and can therefore trigger you into remembering the next part of your speech if you've practiced certain hand gestures at key moments in your delivery.
Adjusting your position onto your chair or the way you stand will help you refresh your energy throughout your body. You will be more alert and active in order to clearly speak and deliver the way you want.
7. Take your time to think about what you want to say
It sounds obvious but we often rush into speaking without taking the time to reflect on what we want to say. If you're jumping around from topic to topic, your words may get fumbled and you can lose your train of thought and your place in the entire process. If you feel the pressure mounting or the fear that you'll forget your words, take a pause, breathe, re-adjust, and reflect on the purpose of your speech to get you back on track.
8. Write notes
If your thoughts are fuzzy, write down a few things in a notepad you keep on the podium or by your side on the desk, for whatever comes to you, and you'll be able to identify which one is most important to communicate when you're up on the stand or at the head of the table.
9. Once you know what you want to say, think about how you will end
What is your point? Finish with exactly that. Our desire to fill in silence stops us from communicating clearly and eloquently. There is a conclusion to what you have to say so make your point clear – that way you know your end goal and can see the finish line.
10. Be sure that what you have to say is necessary
A Belgian proverb says, "Turn your tongue 7 times in your mouth before talking". In a nutshell, it really means to make sure that what you have to say is necessary and to take your time to clear state your thoughts in order to speak in public with confidence.
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1. National Institute of Mental Health: nationalsocialanxietycenter.com/2017/02/20/public-speaking-and-fear-of-brain-freezes/