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Summary: Are you afraid of speaking in public? Try following these 5 tips to help you overcome your fear.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter whether you’re standing in front of a crowd of five hundred or simply a crowd of ten important coworkers from your office - some people have a serious fear of getting up in front of a crowd and talking. Sure, you can lead a meeting where you’re all sitting and collaborating without a hitch, but turn it into a “presentation” where you’re standing up in front of a group and you fall apart.
Does this sound like you? Don’t worry, this sentiment is felt by a great deal of people. In fact, around 75% of Americans have a speech phobia of some sort, although most manage to push through the unpleasant experience. If you’re one of these 75%, but you also call yourself a leader or want to become a leader, you probably find your anxiety around presenting to be a hindrance to your success. It’s true that the more you speak, the better you’ll be, but there are many other tips you can use to become comfortable with speaking, whether it’s in front of a small group or a large crowd.
Here are five presentation tips for people who fear public speaking:
Be prepared. 80% of the battle when it comes to public speaking is knowing what you’re going to say and feeling confident in your speech. Make sure your notes are easy to read and well organized and then practice, practice, practice. You may not want to, thinking it will only make you feel more nervous, but it’s just like practicing anything else. The more you do it, the more you’ll create the memory you need to be confident that you can do this.
Have someone critique you. This suggestion probably sounds even worse than just practicing, but it makes a huge difference if you practice in front of someone else. Not only will it give you evidence that yes, you can do this in front of someone, but it will give you the opportunity to learn whether your speech is easy to follow and whether or not you have any distracting tics while you speak. If you can’t find someone to listen, try recording yourself and watching the video.
Use hand gestures and facial expressions. Have you ever been a presentation where the speaker talks in a monotone voice the entire time? We’ve all had one of those teachers or wanted to fall asleep in one of those seminars. Keep your audience engaged by being animated. No need to go overboard, but if you show them that you’re passionate about what you’re discussing, then you’ll get more positive feedback from the audience that will help calm your nerves.
Tell a story. Telling a story will help ease you into your speech as well as be incredibly engaging for your audience. When we hear a real life story related to the topic we’re about to learn, it makes the whole experience more interesting and relatable to our own lives. In addition, if you tell a more personal story, it will likely calm you down because it’s much easier to talk about our personal experiences than something we’re working on or researching for work.
Forget about the audience’s opinion. While you do want to give a good speech that is educational and engaging, you have to let go of other people’s opinions. Not everyone is going to love you and that’s okay. Focus on giving a good speech and forget about what everyone else thinks. Decide what will mean “success” to you when it comes to your presentation and don’t let that success be dependent on anyone else.