Turn Anxiety Into Energy
When it comes to public speaking one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and nervousness is to USE the energy that your body generates as a result of you being so nervous.
One of the coolest things about being anxious is that our bodies produce various chemicals when we anticipate something were afraid of.
And this actually results in an increased amount of adrenaline and energy. But most people are too busy being afraid to actually think about channeling their anxiety into energy and enthusiasm.
The key is to use this energy when it arises to connect with your audience and deliver your message with power and purpose.
How To Overcome Fear Of Public Speaking
Unfortunately, no one magic elixir will ease the panic you feel when it comes to your public speaking. Overcoming public speaking anxiety takes a concentrated approach that incorporates several best practices.
Weve found one of the best ways to get over your fear of public speaking is to effectively organize and deliver your talk. This leads to positive audience feedback and that leads to greater confidence. This can be achieved by being prepared, practicing, and taking public speaking classes. Meanwhile, if your heart is racing, you can calm it through targeted breathing exercises. And, you can get a grip on that anxiety by putting it to better use. Through strategies such as positive self-talk, you can reappraise your fear and turn it into a powerful motivator.
In a recent paper, Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School addresses this dynamic: Individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. She suggests motivational pep talks or simple reminders to boost the concept of opportunity rather than dread.
She found speakers who opted to redirect that fear performed better than those who tried to will it away and eliminate it.
Here some useful tips to overcome fear of public speaking and learn how to better manage it:
Take A Time To Situate Yourself Before Presenting
Following the previous section, do not go out in front of people or on stage awkwardly in fear. Go step by step, pace yourself. Its nerve-wracking, we know, but once you get into it, it will fly by, but in the meantime compose yourself and walk with confidence. Now its time to do your presentation.
Dont rush. Take a moment to connect before you start talking. Remember you arent in a hurry. Nothing happens if you take a few seconds to align your mind with your body and concentrate on the task.
Place your feet firmly on the ground, connect with your breath, only for a few seconds, and stand up straight. Be alert of where you are and what is going on, in your body, breath, and, quietly, begin to present to your audience what you have been preparing with so much effort throughout these days. Youll be great, youll see.
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What Causes Fear Of Public Speaking
Fear of public speaking – also known as Glossophobia – has its roots in social phobia. It comes from the fear of being judged, which stems from all the attention that people place on you when you’re speaking. Ideally, you need to be able to deliver a loud, effective speech. Yet doubts over our own ability combined with the knowledge that others are forced to pay attention to the words we share can create a feeling of fear that is tough to shake.
Public speaking fears are also frequently reinforced. No one gives a perfect speech. If you go up there and do a great job but make a few mistakes, your mind tends to focus on the mistakes, and your fear is then confirmed.
In addition, there is reason to believe that the modern day lifestyle makes glossophobia more common than it had been in the past. Consider the following:
- More and more people spend their free time in less public situations, like online, which not only reduces public social interactions but also allows for complete anonymity. Those that spend a lot of time online become less used to the idea of talking in public and being judged.
- Increasingly, people have work-related communication that requires fewer public speaking engagements. Now you can send emails, talk on the phone, or use online workrooms. No longer do you need to worry as much about others looking at you and judging you, which is a problem for future public speakers because it means less experience speaking in public.
A Common Phobia That Is Tough To Treat
The fear of speaking in public is incredibly common, over 25% of people report anxiety related to public speaking. Even those who are not necessarily anxious about other things may find themselves having some degree of anxiety when it comes to having to speak in front of a crowd.
While a fear of public speaking is very common there are also some some specific strategies that you can use to help make it easier. One of the first things that you can do is understand some of the causes for your public speaking anxiety.
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Put Yourself Out There
While I was practicing public speaking on a weekly basis at Toastmasters meetings, I also started to take every speaking opportunity that came my way and prep for it rigorously, no matter how insignificant it might have seemed. For example, I volunteered to give the short welcome speech at a workshop my company offered, and when my company was contacted about speaking at a social media marketing seminar, I quickly suggested I give the talk. I prepped for this talk by presenting it to my team a few days before.
And you know what? The more I practiced, the more comfortable I became with speaking in front of an audience. The lesson here is: Even if you feel youre not entirely ready, actively seek out speaking opportunities and take each one that comes your way, whether its simply presenting to a few colleagues or giving a talk to a room of 30 people.
Turn Your Fear Of Public Speaking Into Confidence
Now that you have actionable ways to manage and eliminate your fear of public speaking with these tips for public speaking anxiety, its time to get speaking!
Use my 5-minute speech formula to organize your speech using the exact same formula I have used to speak to millions of people in over 70 countries.
And remember, only you are responsible for your success.
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Practice Your Speecha Lot
If you’ve been following any of my public speaking tutorials, you know that I emphasize practicing your speaking to improve your skills. There’s a good reason for that. In general, practice works. Practice helps you to feel prepared and also serves the added purpose of helping you to get familiar with your material. So, if your fear of public speaking has got you anxious about giving your next speech, work in some practice sessions before you speak. For some tips on how to make the most of your practice sessions, take a look at this tutorial:
Don’t overdo practice, though. For example, don’t stay up late into the night the day before your speech practicing. Your rest is important too.
Choose A Topic You’re Passionate About
Many speakers find that their nerves vanish when they’re talking about something they care deeply about. Their passion for their topic overrides any fear of public speaking that they’d otherwise have. This could be true for you as well. If you’ve got a topic you’re passionate about and need to write a motivational speech, use the tips in this helpful tutorial to get ready:
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Talk Yourself Up With Positive Self Talk
Fearful speakers tend to allow negative self-talk to derail their presentations before they even get a chance to get off the ground. As they revisit and rehash previous talks, they relive those moments when they failed to connect with their audience or land a key point, or when their mic cut out. When anxiety wins out, we tend to only think about all that can go wrong, rather than all that can go right.
One of the useful tips to overcome the fear of public speaking is to write a new script. Replace negative words with positive dialogue. Its a process called cognitive restructuring. Instead of saying I made a mistake, you tell yourself, That was a lesson learned. Missteps are just steps in your journey to being a better speaker.
Life Shouldnt Feel Like Life Or Death
The bottom line is that if something scares you, you will avoid it, and if you avoid it, you will not get enough practice, and when you dont get enough practice, you will not get better at it, and if you are not getting better at it, you will continue to be afraid of it. This cycle of fear can go on and on. But it doesnt have to. With the number of options available, it is up to you to decide when and how to break this cycle of fear of public speaking.
LinkedIn Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock
To Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking Stop Thinking About Yourself
Even the most confident speakers find ways to distance themselves from their audience. Its how our brains are programmed, so how can we overcome it? Human generosity. The key to calming the amygdala and disarming our panic button is to turn the focus away from ourselves away from whether we will mess up or whether the audience will like us and toward helping the audience. Showing kindness and generosity to others has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which has the power to calm the fight-or-flight response. When we are kind to others, we tend to feel calmer and less stressed. The same principle applies in speaking. When we approach speaking with a spirit of generosity, we counteract the sensation of being under attack and we feel less nervous.
Most of us even those at the top struggle with public-speaking anxiety. When I ask my clients what makes them nervous, invariably they respond with the same answers:
I dont like being watched.
I dont like the eyes on me.
I dont like being in the spotlight.
And it follows that when they get up to speak, nearly all of them initially avoid making eye contact with members of the audience. Therein lies the problem: While avoiding direct eye contact may seem like an effective strategy for coping with speaking anxiety, it actually makes you even more nervous.
Free Ebook Presentation Resource
Before we get into our tips on how to overcome the fear of public speaking, I’ve got a great resource to share with you. Learn everything you need to know to create a great presentation.
To take these tips further, download our free eBook:The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It’ll help you master the complete presentation process.
Now, let’s learn how to overcome the fear of public speaking.
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Why Do We Get Public Speaking Anxiety In The First Place
Neuroscience tells us that these feelings of fear and anxiety about public speaking are built within our biology.
Thanks to hundreds of thousands of years of ancestral conditioning , those increased levels of alertness/nervousness/fear we feel when faced with the prospect of addressing a crowd of people, is the result of some pretty basic behaviors triggered from the brain. Heres how Scott Berkun explains these behaviors in his book, Confessions of a Public Speaker:
Our brains identify the following four things as being very bad for survival:
Standing alone In front of a large crowd of creatures staring at you.
In the long history of all living things, any situation where all the above were true was very bad for you. It meant the odds were high that you would soon be attacked and eaten alive. Many predators hunt in packs, and their easiest prey are those who stand alone, without a weapon, on a flat area of land where there is little cover . Our ancestors developed a fear response to these situations. So, despite my 15 years of teaching classes, running workshops, and giving lectures, no matter how comfortable I appear to the audience when at the front of the room, its a scientific fact that my brain and body will experience some kind of fear before and often while Im speaking.
When Youre Preparing Think About Your Audience
When we start preparing for a presentation, the mistake we all make is starting with the topic. This immediately gets us inside the details and makes it harder to break down the wall between us and others. Instead, start with the audience. Before diving into the information, ask yourself: Who will be in the room? Why are they there? What do they need? Be specific in your answers. Identify the audiences needs, both spoken and unspoken, and craft a message that speaks directly to those needs.
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Be Legible In Every Sense
When you’re sitting in an audience, do you like it when you can barely see or hear the speaker, or read the slides ?
Whether on stage or in virtual meetings, help people understand your ideas by reducing the cognitive work it takes to see and hear you. Use good lighting and a decent microphone. Speak slowly, enunciate, and use short words, sentences and paragraphs.
Lastly, get rid of filler words like “um,””ah,””like” and other expressions that can distract from or bloat your message when used in excess.
Just Before Your Presentation
If possible, practice your material one last time before heading out to give your presentation. You should also avoid food or caffeine before speaking.
Once youve arrived at your speaking location, get familiar with the space. If youre using any equipment, such as a laptop or projector, make sure everything is working.
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Find A Safe Place To Practice
I had a hunch that the quickest way to get better at speaking in front of an audience was to practice, so I decided to sign up for Toastmasters. The great thing about Toastmasters is that it provides a safe space to practice your public speaking , and you get constructive feedback on your presentations from people who have been studying with the program for a while. Its as close as youll get to taking a class on public speaking without paying a lot of money.
Whether you choose Toastmasters, a public speaking meet-up, or a more formal public speaking course, finding a place where you can practice presenting in front of an audience without the pressure of a high-stakes spotlight is really the first big step to becoming more comfortable with public speaking.