Do you have a fear of public speaking? Well, if you do, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that as many as 75 percent of Americans feel anxious to some degree.
Conquering the fear of public speaking can seem daunting, but there are things you can do to avoid having to talk yourself up every time you go into a meeting or walk on a stage. As public speaking coach and author Marjorie Brody said, “I know firsthand how powerful that fear can be. But I also know that with the right mindset and techniques, anyone can conquer that fear and become a confident and compelling speaker."
Let’s discuss strategies for managing anxiety, engaging the audience and delivering compelling presentations with confidence.
Understanding the fear of public speaking
The fear of public speaking is a type of performance anxiety. It arises when someone is faced with the prospect of presenting in front of an audience - whether that’s two or 2000.
There are a number of reasons this can come about, including the fear of being judged, fear of failure or fear of making mistakes. Different people also react to it in different ways. Common symptoms can include increased heart rate, sweating, shaking and, in some severe cases, difficulty breathing.
Strategies for overcoming the fear of public speaking
Preparation techniques: One way to overcome the fear of public speaking is to prepare thoroughly for a speech or presentation.
Practice your speech and review it before presenting. Try to visualize the successful presentation of your speech to feel confident in your ability to deliver it. If you can, schedule a meeting with a colleague or friend who can give you constructive feedback.
Research and know your audience to tailor the speech to their interests and needs.
Managing anxiety techniques: Deep breathing exercises are a common and great way for you to manage anxiety. Ensure you take time to relax, exercise and use other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, to help you stay calm.
Positive thinking is also a great mindset to get into. Think of the glass half full, not empty and the praise you’ll get for a presentation well done.
Engaging the audience techniques: Storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging your audience. Use real-life experiences, anecdotes and personal stories, to help build that connection with the audience on an emotional level.
Interactive presentation techniques, such as asking questions or conducting surveys, can also enhance engagement. If you’re funny or feel you can deliver a good joke, humor can also be an effective tool, but it's important to use it appropriately.
Developing effective presentation skills
Taking a lot of the more technical worries out of the equation can really be a big help. The following techniques can help you to improve your presentation skills and boost your confidence:
Planning and preparing: You can’t do this enough. No one knows you better than you, so listen to yourself and take the time you need to get ready. Try using a scheduling tool to free up time in your day to achieve this.
Structuring your presentation: Have a start, middle and end and know where you’re going throughout.
Creating a compelling introduction: A good introduction grabs the audience's attention and sets the tone. Think of an interesting story, stat or question to ask.
Developing an engaging conclusion: Don’t leave them on a cliffhanger - finish just as strongly as you start.
Delivery techniques: Be sure to use eye contact, gestures and vary your tone and pace.
Practice, practice, practice: Rehearsing the speech multiple times will help you improve delivery and confidence.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." So, let's face the fear and become better public speakers.