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13 Tips to Zap Your Butterflies When Speaking in Public

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13 Tips to Zap Your Butterflies When Speaking in Public
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    Everyone gets nervous before giving a speech. Unfortunately, the more people in the audience, the more important the speech usually is, making any butterflies in your stomach multiply before you begin. Knowing how to keep yourself calm can make a big difference when giving a speech.

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    I’m not a world-famous speaker. I’m just an introvert who has managed to train himself to stay calm on stage. I’ve given quite a few speeches and presentations, so these tips are merely suggestions from my personal experience in trying to fight my own butterflies.

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    For Your Next Presentation

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    If you’ve got a big presentation to do in the next few weeks, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to improve your speaking skill. At this point you just need to make sure you deliver the presentation to the best of your current ability. Nervousness can interfere with that delivery, so here is some advice for conquering your fears in the short-term:

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    1. They won’t notice. I’ve listened to speeches where speakers told everyone how nervous they were. Until that moment, I had no idea they were nervous and I’m sure nobody else noticed either. Think of any nervousness you feel as being your private secret and most of the time it will be.
    2. Rehearse like a maniac. When I have an important presentation, I memorize the key sections word for word. I practice in front of a mirror several times before I go on stage. Rehearsal is extremely important because it will keep you from forgetting your lines in a panic.
    3. Unfreeze the audience with humor. If the situation allows it and you are funny in conversations, try starting with a joke or a bit of humor. If you can start the audience laughing before getting into more serious matters, that will dissolve much of your fright. I wouldn’t use humor if I didn’t feel comfortable with it, so don’t push the jokes if it doesn’t feel natural to do so.
    4. Look good. I’m certainly not going to become a male model overnight, but staying groomed and dressing somewhat more formally than the rest of the audience can do wonders to boost your confidence. Worrying about being underdressed or not having shaved that morning can make any stage fright worse.
    5. Scope out the environment. Come to your presentation room a day before and look around. Where will people be sitting? What potential problems might come up for speaking or displaying information? Be comfortable in the room you are about to speak in.
    6. Talk to the audience. If you don’t know your audience already, have a chat with a few members before you speak. This can give you a bit of extra familiarity with the audience by knowing you have a few acquaintances in the crowd of strangers.
    7. Memorize the sticky spots. During your rehearsal, there will probably be one or two places that you trip over. Reword and memorize these sections so they don’t drag you down during your final speech.
    8. Accept the fear, don’t fight it. The worst thing you can do when you’re nervous is to notice your own anxiety and start worrying about that too. Just accept any nervousness you feel just as you would accept that the carpet is blue or the walls are white. Trying to force yourself to calm down or hide signs of nervousness can backfire and make your problem worse.

    For Your Future Presentations

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    In the immediate future there isn’t much you can do to improve your speaking skill. But for presentations in the next weeks, months and years, there are many ways you can eliminate nervousness and increase your confidence.

    1. Join Toastmasters. This organization has been really helpful for myself in improving my public speaking. Not only does it provide a supportive environment with friends, but it offers detailed and constructive advice to improve on.
    2. Practice the Art of Pauses. Your audience needs pauses. Speakers who speed-talk for an hour aren’t likely to leave an impact on their audience. Boosting your confidence starts by becoming comfortable leaving silence. When you’re nervous, your instinct will be to fill any dead air with words. Resisting that urge over the long run makes you a more confident and competent speaker.
    3. Avoid the Powerpoint Crutch. Most people use Powerpoint as a way of directing attention away from themselves and onto a screen. While it may be less frightening to have the audience stare at your poorly worded bullet points, it destroys your speeches and lowers your speaking ability. Training yourself to speak without a slideshow forces you to become more entertaining and confident as a speaker.
    4. Work on Posture and Body Language. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he points out studies where researchers discovered that moving their face into smiling or frowning positions actually made them feel differently. This has been reflected in other research and I believe it applies to your body language on stage. Adopting a confident stance and posture can take training to form as a habit, but it will eventually reduce your nervousness at the podium.
    5. Fail Often. I’ve made a few speeches that absolutely bombed. The jokes were met with silence and I didn’t get the results I intended. While you’d think these experiences would increase my nervousness, I’ve found doing them enough actually reduces it. When you realize that the worst that can happen isn’t that bad, it zaps your butterflies for good.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

    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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