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8 Tips For Becoming A More Confident Public Speaker

8 Tips For Becoming A More Confident Public Speaker
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For some people public speaking is worse than watching “Insidious” all alone in the dark, the first and second part back to back. It’s their worst nightmare, and when they think of speaking in front of a crowd they feel nauseous, but if you think about it for a moment, you will realize just how ridiculous this fear is. However, the fact is that the fear is so deeply ingrained that no amount of rationalizing can help you.

I had stage fright before, and whenever I started speaking, my face would turn red and I’d look like I was about to start crying at any moment. Using these eight steps I overcame my fear, and even became a public speaking addict in the end. Moreover, once I conquered the fear I stopped using fillers and became better at conveying my ideas, and so can anyone else.

1. What was I really afraid of?

Many people have stage fright, but in order to learn how to cope with it, you need to find out exactly what you are afraid of. Some are afraid that they will embarrass themselves, whereas some think they will be rejected by the audience. This all leads to sweating, forgetting your lines and being unable to speak fluently.

In order to make the first step to becoming a more confident public speaker, you need to face your fears. Find what you are scared of, and analyze your fear. I was afraid of embarrassing myself and creating an awkward situation. So, I asked myself two questions:

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  • What will you do to embarrass yourself? – The usual answer is “do and say something stupid”, and that was my answer. When you are on the stage, everything you do seems like it should be done that exact way. The audience doesn’t know your speech and what you need to say. Therefore, anything you do won’t be used against you.
  • Why is being on stage so scary? – The common answer is “it’s so quiet and people are looking at me”. Of course people are looking at you, they are waiting to hear what you have to say. Their attention is on you, the floor is yours, and you should allow yourself to feel like a celebrity every once in awhile.

In some cases, people don’t know the cause of their fear, and cannot explain why they start to shiver and mumble the moment they step on the stage.

2. I practice at home

Practice, practice and practice, will make you the best public speaker. There is no better way to become more confident than knowing everything about the subject matter you are covering in your speech. This was my routine before I got used to speaking in public: I’d stand in front of the mirror and pretend a large audience was listening to me.

It’s not the same, but speaking in front of a big audience is a lot like watching yourself in the mirror while speaking. Let’s not stop there. Everyone hates how their voice sounds when it’s recorder and played back to them, and even famous actors don’t like to see themselves on big screens because they sound “weird” to themselves. When you start feeling awkward, pay attention to see if you are speaking clearly, and focus on your intonation.

When you pass these two phases, you need to call some friends over and have them listen to you. All singers, actors and performers say that they become ashamed and nervous when they see their family members and close friends in the audience. It’s better to face the worst immediately, so you won’t be afraid of unfamiliar faces when you go on stage.

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3. I act naturally

The best thing to do in order to become more confident is pretend you are participating in some slightly bigger dinner party – something like a Greek family reunion, with all of the close and extended family seated at a long table – and are discussing something with the other guests. Act naturally, and talk with them, don’t just focus on finishing your speech as fast as you can.

Relax, take a deep breath and be yourself. There is no need to act differently and copy some public speakers, because the only way to have an interesting speech and convey the message is to act naturally. Some even suggest that people who suffer from anxiety during interviews or speeches, should only inform themselves about the matter and just go with a flow. Think about it.

4. I get the audience laughing

If you start your speech with a joke, it will both lighten up the atmosphere and relax you. A joke will instantly boost your confidence, as you will feel more comfortable speaking. Moreover, the audience won’t be bored and will definitely pay attention.

If you are at an event that hosts many different speakers, there is a huge chance people will get bored and lose concentration quickly. When no one listens to you, it can be very hard to stay confident. That’s why I break the ice with a joke, then introduce the topic in an interesting manner.

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5. I focus on the material

During my studies, whenever I had to present some essay or hold a debate, I was afraid of saying something that will make me sound stupid. It was so bad that I even forgot the meaning of some terms related to the topic. All that I could hear was the voice in my head saying: “Pay attention, don’t be stupid.” I wasn’t afraid of the other students, but of professors who were judging my every sentence.

However, once I realized that this irrational fear prevented me from presenting all of my knowledge and capabilities, I focused on the material and just saying what I wanted to say. I didn’t pay attention to what the audience thinks, as I was determined to prove my point and have my voice heard. You need to keep eye contact with the audience in order to engage them better, so learn not to think about their facial expressions and what they might be thinking.

6. I listen to music before the speech

When I had to stand in front of hundreds of people, everyone told me to sit in a quiet room and concentrate. It’s like meditation that will make you relaxed and calm. However, this didn’t help a lot, as I couldn’t calm myself because of all the adrenalin pumping through my veins. My friend, who had more experience than me, sent me a playlist and told me just to listen to it.

The negative energy and the nervousness I had were transformed into a calm positive energy after listening to a few encouraging songs. This put me in a positive mood, which helped me overcome my fear, and I felt like a rock star. The songs I listened to were different things from The Queen and RHCP, and “Waiting all night” from Rudimental, which made me jump around the room. It actually doesn’t matter what you listen to, as long as it is a fast song and you love it. Music plays a huge role in our lives, especially when it comes to motivation.

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7. I dress for success

I feel a lot more confident when I’m dressed well. This means I wear comfortable clothes, which make me look both professional and beautiful. When I am dressed like I’m speaking at the most important event of the year, I feel more confident to stand on stage and be looked at. I usually wear clothes that I am used to, rather than buying new clothes and worrying I might experience a wardrobe malfunction.

If you haven’t tried it, put on your favorite clothes and make a big entrance, flying out to the stage and feeling like you’ve just won an Oscar. If you fall, don’t worry, you can always pull of a cute Jennifer Lawrence look after you get up.

8. I prepare for mistakes

The worst thing that can happen to you is to get confused when you make a mistake. You start blushing, sweating, and then you say something that makes the whole audience uncomfortable. When I was just starting to speak in public on a more regular basis, I used to always prepare some backup lines in case I made a mistake. Once, I accidentally said the conclusion before including the previous steps, and I said “Oops, that escalated quickly.” Everyone laughed and I continued confidently my speech.

Mistakes have a positive effect on people, as you are human and it is normal to make a mistake – you cannot just recite the text you’ve prepared. This way you show that you think about the things you are talking about, and are not just going through a script.

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When you get to love public speaking some issues like what to do with your hands, won’t be a problem as it will come naturally. However, if you have some problems with posture, try keeping your back straight as it will boost both your confidence and credibility. Try out different methods, as we are all different, and you cannot expect to overcome your problem by doing only one thing. According to my experience, these eight points will certainly help you become a rock star in front of the crowd.

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Katarina Milovanovic

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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