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How to Cope With Public Speaking

How to Cope With Public Speaking
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As a broadcaster who’s active on TV and radio, I have seen people sweat and get nervous as they sit and get ready to speak live on air. I’ve seen numerous people feel the rough hands of fear clutching them by the collar once they think about the great multitudes of people who’ll listen to them as they speak.

Their palms would become wet with sweat, their heart would pound with the rhythm of a galloping stallion, and they’d turn a nervous teenage wreck. When they finally open their mouths to talk, their voice would quiver. Some would even have dry mouth, and worse, would be lost for words because they would be overwhelmed with fear.

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Research and studies have, time and again, declared that fear of public speaking is the number one fear.

How to STOP fearing public speaking and do it better.

1. Prepare.

You dread public speaking because you don’t know what to say. Here’s what you should do about it: get a piece of paper and a pen and start jotting down your thoughts on what you’ll chat about. Do your due diligence. I’ll give you the most common and simplest speaking assignment–introducing someone on a podium for a certain event. Wise up. Go talk to the person you’ll introduce. Find out directly who she is and how she wants to be introduced. You will also realize the significant events, achievements, and her credentials pertinent to the occasion she was invited for in the first place. When you do this step, your task is 50% done. Preparation is key.

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2. Psych yourself.

What is the worst thing that can happen if you stand up and talk? You can be embarrassed and booed on stage. That’s the worst that could happen. Unless you will speak about a delicate national issue which is unlikely, that’s the worst malady you could encounter. No one will sue you if you speak in front of a crowd. However, if you complete first tip–prepare–properly, you will never be embarrassed. Convince yourself of this: you will prepare thoroughly, and studiously, and you’ll be effective in your talk. It’s pretty straightforward and simple.

3. Know your audience.

How will you know how to deliver your piece if you don’t know your audience? By all means, get to know your audience. More specifically, aim to be intimate with your audience. Know their eccentricities, their pain or aches, their desires, their longings. What would they want to know, to hear, to talk about? What are their interests? Know their age bracket. Demographics has always been an integral part of discovering your audience, so go and research about it. In fact, from a Marketing standpoint, discovering the most trivial info, like the brand of coffee your customer prefers, is an edge over the competition. This bit of information, if maximized intelligently, will absolutely help you to kill your competitor, and ultimately, make you invincible. Apply this marketing principle in your talk and you will be victorious.

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4. Be an expert on your topic.

Let’s say you are assigned to speak about love. The best thing to do is to recall your own experiences about love. You should also research as many definitions of love you can find. Study them. Then pick instances in your own life and connect them to specific love definitions. Maybe if you are given more time to prepare, you can interview a love expert. That way, you can add all of these bits and pieces to your treasure of love gems. Your goal is to become a love expert before climbing the pulpit. When you finally grab the spotlight, you’ll be ready to rock the house.

5. Visualize.

The fear of public speaking is related to the fear of criticism. This fear is related to the fear of people’s opinions. I have an amusing solution to this. I learned it when I was still in my teens training to become a radio Disc-Jockey. The trick is this: Imagine that you’re talking to a group of people who are only wearing undies. Visualize that scene. I’m pretty sure you’ll be smiling before you open up your mouth to talk. And when you start this way, you will realize that the best way to face this challenge is to not take yourself too seriously. When you are finally up on that stage, relax, take 3 deep breaths, smile and say hello to your audience. If you are still nervous after saying hello, read your first two lines with all the confidence you can muster. After your first two lines, move on to your third and your fourth, and so on. Usually, when you are done with your first ten sentences, you are good as done. Your talk will flow like it’s being delivered by a professional.

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6. Conduct an ocular inspection.

Acquaint yourself with the venue of the event where you will speak. Make an ocular inspection to check how big your venue is. This is a very important step because by knowing the size of the venue, you will be able to decide how big or small your movements will be. If it is a huge hall, you will need to plan to have big hand gestures and body movements. If the size of the venue is like your high school classroom, then adjust accordingly. Just a twitch of your eyebrow will be seen by your audience. A half smile can be flashed to emphasize a point, for instance. If you check your speaking venue first, you will also discover whether you will have the freedom to walk to and fro on an isle, or you will be confined to the stage. These tiny bits of information will spell the difference whether or not, you will have a successful talk.

7. Read, watch, and listen to good speakers.

The Web is teeming with sites, videos, lectures, tutorials featuring great speakers. Allot time to watch and listen to them. What makes them tick? How do they maintain the audience’s interest? What do they do to catch your attention? Do they use humor to fill in gaps when you lost interest on the portion of their talk that is not too interesting? Did you notice that they have arranged the details of their talk in a manner that helps you to easily comprehend the topic and the sub-topics? To make it plain and simple–learn from the great public speakers.

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One such speaker who has inspired me in an intense way is Peter J. Daniels. He comes from a disadvantaged background and was challenged with poor education in his younger years. His family was third generation welfare recipients, and he has two brothers who were alcoholics. To make matters worse, a lot of his relatives have been jailed. Consequently, at every grade in school, he failed, so he became a bricklayer. At 26, he was swimming in debt, and as fate has allowed it, in 1959 he attended a Billy Graham Crusade. After this momentous encounter, he went on to build successful businesses and became one of the best platform speakers the world has ever known. I suggest, you check Peter out and learn from the videos of his great speaking engagements.

You have a phobia of public speaking? Fret no more. Review the info above every time you’ll be assigned to speak, and you’ll be ready.

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Anthony Dejolde

TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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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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