Ah, public speaking. That’s pretty much most people’s reaction to the topic. According to studies, glossophobia, the scientific term for crippling fear of public speaking, affects 10% of the population (1). That’s adults and kids alike – so it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the boardroom or the classroom, the cause of the fear is rooted deep within us, stemming from fear of rejection, humiliation and isolation (1). While another 10% of people feel pretty blazé about it or even thrive in front of an audience, the rest of us (a whopping 80%) is anxious or fearful on some level (1).
The modern world operates in a weird and wonderful way – work is busy and stressful, and responsibilities become more and more demanding. It’s no wonder so many of us go through the symptoms like anxiety, nervousness, sweaty hands, the shakes and even nausea before having to speak in public, or give a speech or presentation – we barely have the time to practice for what our roles entail.
We simply do not have the time to practice long hours in front of the mirror. We leave it to the last minute and we think we can trust that some meaningful words will come out of our mouth. But we often forget, liveness. Liveness can bring the worst if we are not ready for it, like mumbling, umm-ing and ah-ing, talking for too long, our body language starting to overwhelm our thoughts or simply freezing.
To help you overcome the jitters and nerves, and build your confidence over time to deliver a great speech, here are four key things you need to rehearse.
How to overcome fear of public speaking and give a great presentation
1. Practice a short pitch for friends or family
Asking for help from your friends or family is a great start. You could even get your flatmates to sit on the sofa for a few minutes, or stand in front of your cat, or sit your child in a high chair and practice away! Ask people around you to listen to a short pitch, a presentation, something you are working on or are super passionate about. Regularly practicing in front of a small audience who loves you won’t make you feel the dreaded symptoms of stage fright anxiety like sweaty palms, racing heart and stuttering. If something doesn’t make sense or isn’t quite clear, they will point it out and give you constructive feedback. It’s a safe and relaxed environment and you know you won’t lose their love if you mess up.
2. Help another rehearse their own speech
Helping a friend or a colleague rehearse their own presentation can be very insightful. By helping others we learn a lot about ourselves and about body language. Witnessing someone else practice their speech can point out things that you may or may not also do while presenting. So take notes – whether they be about articulation, posture or hand gestures, that way, you can both gain clarity on what can help during public speaking.
3. Record yourself
While your goals may not include becoming Youtube’s next big star, recording and watching yourself practice can teach you a lot about your presentation skills and to feel less anxious when public speaking. Playing back the video can really help improve your skills as you will do your best to look good, be eloquent and help you become aware of what you need to tweak in order to make positive changes.
4. Take advantage of your network
There are a few tricks that can help you feel more prepared and confident before you’re up in the spotlight, and one of them is to make use of your business network. Next time you attend a conference for example, force yourself to ask questions to other attendees. Target someone you know who can feel more comfortable with asking questions instead of bulldozing a group conversation you know nothing about.
If you would like to try out small speaking engagements, why not discuss making an introduction with the event organiser for the next conference? If this is relevant to you or your job, it could really help slowly build your confidence.
Start practicing with these handy tips today to ensure you feel as prepared as possible before your next big speech. Good luck!