6 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
Speaking isn’t difficult, but throw in the word “public” in front of it, and the panic begins to set in. Just the thought of this task is daunting and can cause anxiety in the most confident of people. The fear of public speaking even has a name: glossophobia.
Glossophobia is common, so if you suffer from it, know that you are not alone. And while you may never fully grow past this fear (and that’s okay), there are ways to combat it and make it less of a burden for yourself. If you tend to avoid public speaking due to fear, here are six tips to help:
Know What You’re Working With
If you are passionate about a topic, you can probably talk about it for hours, no problem. It’s easy and comes naturally. If you’ve studied the material and know what you’re with, you’ll be able to speak about it with more authority – whether in front of a crowd or not.
Don’t just memorize what you are talking about, but really know the topic and subject matter. Memorize to an extent what you’ve written or studied, but you should truly understand the material surrounding the subject matter.
It’s a genuinely horrifying feeling to stand up in front of a crowd and not be able to find what you’re looking for. Getting your materials organized beforehand is crucial for a smooth speech and presentation. Being organized isn’t just about having your stuff in the correct order. You also want to have additional key points that stand out in your notes. Maybe you could add colorful tabs, underlined words, and highlight keywords or meaningful sentences. If you have props, visuals, video or audio clips, etc. to go along with your speech, make sure those are all organized as well.
This one is obvious, but some people often forget or deem it unnecessary. Sometimes winging it is the best option. But before you speak in public, in front of a crowd, you should practice. Practice reading the speech in your head, read it aloud by yourself, and read it in front of someone else.
Reading in your head and out loud allows you to find any mistakes in your writing and correct them beforehand, so it doesn’t pose as a distraction. Your material may sound great to you, but it might not make sense or sound as good to someone else. Be open to feedback and criticism of your content and your presentation. Your friends and colleagues are just trying to help you. And knowing what people might not understand or be clear on will help you with questions or comments you’ll receive when its time for your speaking engagement.
Change Your Mindset
Try to change your mindset before your public speaking event. Instead of letting the worry take you over, try to think of it as something positive. We know this is easier said than done, but it is useful. Sell yourself to, well, yourself. Tell yourself that you are an excellent public speaker and that the audience has probably been in the same position at some point. You’ve got this. Enjoy the spotlight. You’ve earned it.
This mindset can help alleviate the anxiety and stress you get before standing in front of a crowd.
Put Yourself in a Position to Speak More
Just like with sports, performances, and most other things in life: practice makes perfect. If you have a fear of public speaking, practice more! It’s important to continually challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s how you grow – both personally and professionally.
There are many public speaking classes within the school systems and even at recreational centers, churches, and other programs (like Toastmasters). These programs will provide you with more opportunities to practice in a safe space and thus allow you to refine your skills.
You can also join drama clubs, improv clubs, ask to deliver a speech to your team or class, etc. The opportunities are there to push yourself and conquer your fear, you just have to be active in pursuing them.
Watch Yourself in the Mirror
At first, it may seem a little strange, but it works! Get your speech together and stand in front of the mirror. And give your presentation exactly how you would in front of an audience. This activity will help you see (literally) what you could do better. Maybe you need to make better eye contact, move your hands less, or perhaps you fidget just a bit too much. Watching yourself in the mirror will not only help with your facial expressions, but it will help you feel more confident and in control of your content.
We hope these tips can help you overcome your public speaking anxiety. Have you found other techniques or tips that have helped you? We’d love to hear from you in our comment section below!
Alyson Pittman is a contributing writer for WBD and a JR marketing associate for Excite Creative Studios, an Atlanta-based creative agency.
Alyson graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelors of Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing. She was in multiple organizations at KSU where she held leadership positions. As a part of the Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority, Alyson held the Social Coordinator position and planned/promoted large events.