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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 May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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