How to overcome your public speaking anxiety
We all know the feeling. You’ve agreed to do that reading at a family wedding but now the thought fills you with dread. You want to progress at work but the idea of that big presentation gives you cold sweats. Or maybe you just want to contribute in group discussions but fear always leaves you tongue tied.
Whatever your situation, public speaking can be hard. Many of the masters of public speaking weren’t born naturals though – this is a skill that can be learnt. Here’s a few pointers to get you started.
Face your fear
Fear of public speaking is extremely common and unfortunately the symptoms are not at all helpful when you’re trying to deliver a good speech – stuttering, dry mouth, cracking voice, blushing. But before I put you off even more, take a step back and consider where your fear comes from.
What are you really afraid of? Being judged, making a mistake, not being good enough or people seeing your embarrassment? It’s important to realise that none of these things warrant the amount of fear that you feel. Our mind blows things out of proportion and our adrenaline triggers a fight or flight response. Luckily, this can be overcome by retraining the mind. Here’s a few tips to get you started.
Know and love your audience
If you’re giving a speech at an event such as a wedding or funeral consider the purpose and the audience. No one is there to judge you. You are there to share an authentic experience with close friends and family and emotions are an important part of that so no one will mind if your delivery is not perfect.
In situations like a job interview or presentation where people may be more judgemental remember that your audience are still human. They most likely want to see you succeed and are there to enjoy the speaking experience with you. Do your research beforehand so you are more familiar with your audience. The more you know the better. You’ll feel more comfortable talking to a room full of familiar people rather than nameless faces.
Take a step back and see yourself through your audience’s eyes. They don’t know you are nervous. You may well appear as a bright, confident person so embrace that persona. Some signs of nerves can even be passed off as excitement or enthusiasm.
Whatever type of speech you’re doing, feeling prepared is half the battle and does wonders to eliminate nerves. Practice the speech a number of times, record it, time it if necessary and visualise yourself delivering it well. Make sure you have everything you need for the big day – notes, props, slides, water and cue cards. Don’t add extra stress but being unprepared.
Prepare for all eventualities – what might you say if you do stumble a little? How will you begin and end? What questions might people ask? If you don’t know the answer what will you say?
Pace yourself – practice at a speed that works for you and then stick to it. Don’t let nerves make you rush.
Embrace silence – sometimes silence is impactful and can give you a chance to gather yourself. Don’t feel the need to fill every single second.
Breathe – breathe deeply and slowly. This relaxes the body and mind.
Relax – work on relaxing your muscles and standing up straight but comfortably. Smile when you can and be aware of your body language. Don’t be tempted to fidget or fiddle. Wear something smart but comfortable.
Stay in the moment – focus on each word and the sentiment behind it. Don’t let your mind wander or step outside yourself. Don’t worry about the end when you’re just at the start.
Eye contact – it can help you connect with your audience if you maintain eye contact. However, if you get really nervous many people find that focusing on the microphone, their paper or one friendly face is the best way to succeed.
Enjoy – as you begin to relax you’ll start to enjoy public speaking more and more. Take a moment to relish the chance to be in the spotlight or to make that contribution to someone’s special day. Focus on the reasons why you’re doing it.
Improve – if public speaking is a regular part of your life it’s well worth making notes after each speech on what went well and what you could improve. Often we’re so relieved it’s over we immediately forget all about it, until the next one comes along and we have to start from square one.
If you would like more help with public speaking I have lots of experience in this area. Hypnotherapy is ideal for deep-set thought patterns and fears such as this and can help you rewire your thinking so you’ll feel confident and free of fear in your next speech.
Contact me to learn more or to book a free consultation.