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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 February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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