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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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    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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