Fear and anxiety when speaking in public – no matter how large or small the audience – is a learned behaviour. If you have ever spent any time with small children, you will know they love to have the spotlight. Everyone look at me they say – let me sing you a song, let me do a dance, let me show you my Kung-foo moves. We are not born shy- but we can often learn to be shy because of the experiences we endure as we grow. So since the fear of public speaking (or glossophobia) is a learned behaviour it can be unlearned as well.
Here are my 7 top tips that will help you conquer fear when speaking in public or presenting:
Before you start speaking, take a moment to breathe deeply 3 times – in through your nose, out through your mouth. This will oxygenate your blood and calm your flight reflex. When we are anxious we tend to breath quickly so deliberately slowing your breathing sends a signal to your whole body to calm down.
2: STAND CONFIDENT TO FEEL CONFIDENT
The way we stand reflects the way we feel. Nervous people shrink into the corner and fold their arms across themselves. There is a link between our feelings and our posture. However – it is a two way street. Not only does our posture reflect how we feel, we can also affect how we feel by adopting a different posture. In other words, if you stand confident, you will begin to feel more confident. Standing confident means legs straight, not crossed, arms by your side not crossed or wrapped around yourself (and definitely not making a ‘fig-leaf’) Stand with your head held up, back straight and looking at the audience.
3: OPEN STRONG
Practice your opening two sentences so you can deliver them clearly and confidently. This will get you off to a great, positive start and it will be much easier to maintain that positive momentum during your presentation. Consider using an interesting statistic or controversial fact in order to grab your audience’s attention. Did you know, for example, that 83% of statistics used in presentations are made up?
*4: SMILE *
If you look uncomfortable, your audience will feel uncomfortable. Instead, win them over with a friendly smile before you start speaking. Your audience will not buy into your message until they first buy into you. You can make this easier by being friendly and smiling. Not only will your audience feel better – you will too! When you smile your brain releases neuropeptides that actually reduce your stress levels. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. The feel-good neurotransmitters (endorphins, serotonin and dopamine) are all released when your smile. This relaxes your body and they help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
5: SPEAK SLOWLY
When we are nervous we tend to speak more quickly. Not only does this telegraph your nerves to the audience it also makes it much more likely that you will stumble over your words and then feel even more uncomfortable. Slow down. Not only will this make your job much easier it will make it much easier for the audience to follow and digest what you are saying – which is the point of your talk after all right? When it comes to public speaking, what feels ‘too slow’ to you, almost certainly will appear ‘just right‘ to the audience.
6: REMEMBER YOUR WHY
Every time you stand up and speak you are selling something. A product, a service, and idea or yourself. You are not doing it for your own benefit – you are doing it because you believe your audience will be better off if they buy into the thing you are selling. Their business may grow, their relationships may improve, their environment or community will flourish. So stop thinking about how you look or sound, don’t worry what people might be thinking about you. It’s not about you – it’s all about your audience. Turn the mental spotlight off yourself and onto your audience. How can you best serve their needs? When you are focused on serving the best needs of your audience you will have much less time to worry about yourself.
7: CONFIDENCE = PREPARATION
You can only speak as well as you have practised. Spend time practising key parts of your speech (such as the opening and ending) and rehearse the whole thing out loud – from start to finish several times. Just like the more times you practices riding a bicycle the better and more confident you became, the more times you stand up and speak the more accomplished and confident you will become. Look for opportunities to speak at work, at networking events and community organisations. Hone your stagecraft and skills by investing in courses and workshops that will enable you to accelerate your learning and increase your skills more quickly.