Fear of public speaking is a common form of anxiety. It can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic. Many people with this fear avoid public speaking situations altogether, or they suffer through them with shaking hands and a quavering voice. But with preparation and persistence, you can overcome your fear.
1. Start Small
If you’re new to the world of public speaking, start small. Find a few friends and family to practice on. Begin by speaking to smaller groups and build up from there. The size of the audience makes no difference. If you know your topic, your pre-speaking fear will quickly evaporate.
2. Prepare Thoroughly
Nothing helps ease the fear of public speaking more than knowing your material. The ability to connect with your audience comes from having the confidence you won’t get lost during your delivery. Rehearse several times before the big talk. Time your presentation and always have back up material in case time is left over.
3. Don’t Just Memorize the Words
Mastering the art of public speaking comes not from memorizing word for word your entire speech. The real pros know their material by remembering key points and prompts on subtopics and examples to cover.
4. Avoid Common Bullets
The majority of business presentations and speeches are boring monologues filled with endless PowerPoint slides and bullet points. Trash the PowerPoint presentation and make your material the focal point of the talk. If you do use PowerPoint, take the approach of using visuals that quickly convey your message.
5. Reduce Stress
The most fearful moment of any presentation is the one minute before your stage entrance. Use the tactic of elite athletes by visualizing a positive outcome and using deep belly breathing to reduce stress and build confidence.
6. Find a Friend to Focus On
Prior to your public speaking on stage introduce yourself to a few members of the audience in the front row. During your talk look these people in the eye to ease your nerves and connect with your audience.
7. Engage the Audience
Creating a monologue presentation puts the entire task of informing and entertaining the audience on you. Make your talk a two-way interaction with questions and participation to reduce boredom and speak with ease. Having the group involved also gives you time to reorganize your thoughts if things are going off track.
Make public speaking part of your marketing plan and boost your business success. Your fear will evaporate over time and you will wonder why you didn’t start sooner.
If you can’t overcome your fear with practice alone, consider seeking professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a skills-based approach that can be a successful treatment for reducing fear of public speaking.