Anxiety and fear of public speaking can be a big problem. Many people say that public speaking is their greatest fear. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are the 3 best tips to help you beat your fear of public speaking. Use these to remove some of the anxiety you get before you perform.
The best public speakers always get a little bit of nerves before standing on stage. Nerves can be helpful, and give you the adrenaline to perform well. But for some people the very thought of speaking in public can trigger huge anxiety and fear. You can never get rid of your anxiety 100%, but you can go a long way to reducing it.
Here is what I advise to beat your fear of anxiety when speaking in public:
Beat anxiety by practicing your speech.
Practice makes perfect. The more you practice your talk, the more confident you will become. Anxiety can be beaten by huge amounts of preparation. Instead of worrying about your talk, practice, practice, practice.
People get so worried about giving a talk that they hardly rehearse at all. Being unprepared leads for space where worries can slip in.
Here you can follow my step-by-step guide to practicing if you are very very anxious.
- Write down every single word you want to say as a full script.
- Read your script out loud. If you hit any “stumble” words, or feel uncomfortable, delete those lines and replace them.
- Read your script out loud again at least 3 times. On your 3rd read-through, record the audio and listen to it back. If any points in your recording sound awkward, remove them or re-write them.
- Stand up, away from your desk, and practice your talk again, using any powerpoint slides if you have them. Add in pauses, dramatic moments, body language, movements, or other physical elements. Try to use your script less and less, only referring to it when you really need to.
- Pick out the clothes you will wear for your talk, and get dressed up. This will help you feel how your body moves.
- Ask a few close friends to watch you give an entire performance. Wear your clothes you will wear on stage, and use any slides. Try to make it as perfect as you possibly can. Ask your friends if there are any parts that are unclear. Check to see that your jokes are funny, your examples are understandable, and your slides are readable. If you don’t want to share your talk with friends, shoot a small video on your phone and watch it back. You should be able to do one “perfect” performance by now.
- Watch back video, or listen to audio of your “perfect” performance as many times as you can. Your talk will become second nature to you. By re-watching your performance at least 5 times, it will become very natural to you.
Follow this rehearsal schedule to reduce your anxiety about public speaking.
Desensitisation destroys public speaking anxiety.
This second tip is a longer term strategy for beating your fear of public speaking. Desensitisation is a process where you keep on doing the same thing again and again. Slowly over time it stops being scary and starts being normal.
Quite simply, the more public speaking you do, the easier it becomes.
If you are dedicated to beating your fears of public speaking, start small, and build up.
Try to begin with whatever you are comfortable with. You may want to start by simply introducing yourself to a group, and saying a few small lines about yourself and your work. Then, the next time an opportunity presents itself, maybe give a short 3 minute presentation to a few co-workers. Then go for a 5 minute talk, and then a 10 minute talk, each time building up the size of the audience and the difficulty level.
Just as a body-builder must begin by lifting the lightest weights before he can life the heavy weights, do the things you find easiest first, and then build up.
For me, I began desensitising to the fear of public speaking by first singing in choirs and school plays when I was about 6 years old. It gave me the experience of being on stage in front of an audience, but I had plenty of other people around me so I could hide behind them.
Then I would sing a few lines of a song when I was around 7, in front of a church audience.
Then I would read poems in front of my class for a couple of minutes. At around 10 years old I could give my own 5 minute presentations in front of my classmates.
When I was 21, I would give 45 minute lectures to other students at my university. By the time I was 25 I could give 4 hour master-classes, and by 26 I could present international award shows, and was being invited all over the world to speak to huge audiences.
Of course, I was always a little nervous before I stepped on stage, but because I had built up my experience, the nerves were so minor that it never gave me anxiety.
The trick is to look for every single opportunity to practice your speaking, and make it very clear to your event organiser what you are comfortable doing. I would send emails to event organisers of events that I enjoyed and said “I would be very happy to give a 10 minute talk on the subject of XYZ to an audience of 50 people”. That way, if I was scared to give a 20 minute talk, or scared of a large audience, I could avoid the things that made me scared, and only do the things I could enjoy. If I felt confident giving a 10 minute talk, next time I would go for 15 minutes. Build up bit-by-bit.
Avoid anxiety by not public speaking.
This is perhaps my most controversial tip. But quite frankly, if you are very very worried, scared or fearful, the most simplest solution is to not speak in public. Just don’t do it.
If you force yourself to get up on stage and you are visibly uncomfortable, it makes the audience uncomfortable. That is no good for anyone.
Also, if you say “Yes” to speaking in public, but you get so nervous you pull out 5 minutes before your talk, you embarrass yourself, and you make life difficult for the events emcee and your event organiser.
No one is ever forcing you to do something you don’t want to do. So don’t put that extra pressure on yourself either.
However, if you are thinking of quitting, but you are not quite sure, if you want to feel the fear and do it anyway, here are some ideas:
- Record your talk as a video, or share your script as a blog post, podcast, or other pre-recorded media. This gets your name and your content “out there” without the fear of performing live.
- Ask if you could be part of a panel discussion, or be interviewed by the emcee. This takes away a lot of the pressure of preparation.
- Ask if you could do something more intimate, such as one-on-one discussions with audience members, Questions-and-Answers sessions, portfolio reviews, sparring, feedback or something small.
- Ask if you could be part of a group, so the focus is not all on you. There may be a better format for the event organiser to arrange 3 to 5 different people, including you, to the stage, to bring different perspectives to the discussion.
An additional option is to think about what happens when your nerves and anxiety are so huge around public speaking that you simply have to turn down the opportunity. Please don’t just email your event organiser and say “no”. Try to offer the chance to someone who could benefit from public speaking. Ask yourself:
- Do you have a colleague who would love the opportunity to talk?
- Is there a young student, mentee, or apprentice who would benefit from the exposure?
- Can you find someone who is a minority in your industry who has an under-represented voice that could benefit from the exposure?
- Do you have a PR or Marketing department person that you can include in the discussion? Make sure your company or organisation is represented in the best way?
Remember, what could seem like a nightmare to you could be a dream-come-true for someone else.
What do you think? What ways do you like to overcome your anxiety and fear of public speaking? Let us know in the comments.