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How to get over your fear of public speaking

How to get over your fear of public speaking

    Does reading the title make you nervous/scared? Got that sick feeling in your stomach? The number one fear in the world, ahead of even the fear of death, is the fear of public speaking. Regardless of what some may say, the fear of public speaking is extremely common — even the most polished speakers have experienced a fear of public speaking, trust me! Being able to get over your fear of public speaking can have huge payoffs in terms of your career. Being able to speak effectively in public is a huge career draw and can almost instantly grab your boss’s attention. Employers are continually looking for employees with excellent communication skills. Think for a moment about someone you know in your workplace who is an excellent speaker. Is it your boss? Your boss’s boss? You boss’s boss’s boss? Don’t get me wrong, not all of your superiors are excellent speakers, but I’m willing to bet a good majority of them are. Having excellent public speaking skills can give your career a jump start. The following are several tips to help you get over your fear of public speaking and in turn, jump start your career.

    The introduction
    This article is going to be more than an “imagine the audience in their underwear” guide. Although some of these tips you might consider commonsensical, they helped me get over my fear of public speaking and hopefully you can walk away with some actionable advice.

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    Practice your speech in front of a mirror
    Deliver your speech from beginning to end in front of a full length mirror. Practicing your speech in front of a mirror is invaluable. Speaking in front of a mirror is important because every move you make is distracting. You will notice if you are swaying back and forth, you will notice if you say “um,” “ah,” and “you know,” you will notice if you are getting sweaty, and you will notice if you spit when you speak (if you’re standing close enough to the mirror). Essentially, the mirror allows you to be cognizant of the subtle distracting actions you make. “Subtle distraction actions” often are the reason a quality speech turns into a terrible speech.

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    Practice your speech facing a wall
    Practice your speech from beginning to end facing a wall. This is the exact opposite scenario as compared to speaking in front of a mirror. Speaking in front of a wall will allow you to block out all distractions and focus exclusively on the content of your speech. You may feel silly doing this at first (I certainly did) but speaking in front of a wall will help you identify the parts of your speech that you are struggling with, in which the content is weak, or that you cannot gracefully convey to your audience. Use this as an opportunity to hammer home any part of the speech’s content that you find particularly difficult, or confusing.

    Practice with a friend
    You tend to be more relaxed delivering the speech to a friend. Also, a friend will hopefully be able to understand your topic, ask questions, and give honest and candid feedback. If a friend can’t adequately provide this service, find someone who can. After you finish delivering your speech, probe your friend to find out what parts of your speech were easiest to understand and what parts were most difficult.

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    Practice with a peer (non-friend)
    Delivering your speech to a non-friend peer is useful because it adds some pressure. This will be nowhere near the same amount of pressure you will feel when actually delivering the speech. However, it will be useful because you will have the opportunity to deliver the speech under pressure. Probe your peer on the content of the speech in the same way that you would with your friend (described above).

    Record yourself
    You hate hearing yourself on your answering machine, and you will hate hearing yourself practice your speech. Recording your speech and critiquing yourself is extremely important because you will be able to identify and correct any flaws in your speech and stammers in your presentation. This is a simple tip, but very useful.

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    Do a dry run
    If you knew the questions on a big exam ahead of time would you still be nervous about the exam? This is a bit of a stretch compared to an exam, but if at all possible, get to your venue days (or weeks if it is a really big presentation) before you have to give your speech. Practice your speech exactly as if there was an audience, this includes using the microphone. Don’t show up in flip flops and shorts if your speech will be in a tuxedo. Make your dry run as realistic as possible. The more realistic you can practice your speech before actually delivering it, the easier it will be when your big day comes.

    Don’t only practice in front of your family
    Your family is your best critic, which unfortunately means they will not provide you with honest feedback. Maybe your family is the exception, however, for fear of hurting your feelings, or adding unnecessary pressure, family members are rarely, if ever, suitable practice partners. If a family member insists that you practice your speech in front of them, take their advice with a grain of salt. You can’t blame your family for trying to help, but they should not be considered reliable critics.

    Conclusion
    If you haven’t caught on by now, the theme in this article is practice. Practicing your speech in various scenarios and under various conditions will make you more relaxed and reduce your feelings of anxiety when speaking publicly. Speaking publicly is no different than any other activity — practice makes perfect! Delivering your speech four to five times privately will not be fun. It will be downright annoying, and can be very time consuming depending the length of your speech. However, it will certainly be worth it. Every time you practice your speech you will notice drastic improvements in the quality of your delivery. Having a well-practiced speech will definitely curb your fear of public speaking.

    What other tips do you have? How did you get over your fear of public speaking? Still scared of public speaking? Give us your opinion in the comments.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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