5 ways to overcome the fear of public speaking 

Have you had to speak to a group of people and your palms become sweaty, your knees start shaking? You become anxious, you start forgetting your points, you lock eyes with an unfriendly person and you “mess things up”? 

Here’s another scenario. You have a public speaking engagement that you are convinced that you’ve prepared for and you’re called upon for your session. You start walking confidently to the stage, then you realize how many people you have to talk to all at once. Your heart starts to pound as fear grips your heart. You start thinking you’re not worthy and less qualified to talk to these people. Then your confidence enters mud. You can overcome this.  

What is public speaking?  

Public speaking is reaching an audience with the aim to instruct them, educate them, persuade or entertain them by speaking.  

Being scared before having to speak to an audience happens to the best of us. There are some people who appear to have public speaking as a talent, but this not so for a larger amount of people.  

There are some truths to note about public speaking in contrast to the myths about it. And knowing the truth about public speaking is the first step to overcoming your fears of public speaking. 

  • Public Speaking is a teachable skill. No one is born a public speaker. However, there might be people who are eloquent and outspoken from childhood due to their personality, but no one is born with the skill of public speaking. No one is born a public speaker. You can learn and get better on the job.
  • The fear of public speaking can be submerged. You can overcome the fear and give an excellent speech that will resonate with your audience. Your fear does not have to get the better of you.  
  • There is no ultimate right way to speak to your audience. Different factors define what the right way is; the environment, the topic, the audience, and many more.  

 

Why do people struggle with public speaking? 

 

  • Lack of preparation: Someone once said that it’s one thing to be ready and another to be prepared to take on something. To be prepared for a public speaking engagement, you must pay attention to the details of the event.  

Rehearse your main points, body language, and the pace at which you speak. Rehearse and rehearse all over again till you’re sure that you are prepared. Let people around you watch your performance and point out things that need to be corrected.  

  • Not knowing your audience: Not knowing the people you are going to speak to can cause you to struggle. What age group will you be speaking to? What language do they speak? What religion do they identify with? What is their culture? How do they dress?  You should know the answer to questions such as these. It will help you relate with them on their level. You will avoid costly mistakes like telling jokes that are offensive to them, being overdressed, underdressed, and many more mistakes.  
  • Over excitement: It is possible to hear the topic you’ll be speaking on and get overly excited that you leave out the important things for your research. There’s very little your excitement will yield after that. Excitement and under preparation equals a disastrous speech. Be excited and also prepare adequately.
     
  • Lack of confidence: Poor dressing could affect your confidence. Imagine you are a guest at a public speaking event and you walk into a room where everyone is corporately dressed and because you didn’t do your due diligence, you walk in with biker shorts and an oversized tee-shirt.
    Lack of confidence could also come from being under prepared, it could come from the fear of being watched by your audience especially the ones with unfriendly faces, or from the feeling of not being competent enough to address them also known as imposter syndrome, overthinking, it could also be from the fear of being judged by how you speak, stand, walk, or talk.
     
  • Lack of organization: Your notes are not properly arranged. They are probably clustered and there are many points to understand at the same time. They are scattered all over and not organized. So it’s difficult to connect to your audience because you don’t even understand your notes.
     
  • Poor time management: You get anxious and have to run through your points in a limited time because initially you did not use your time wisely. And then you realize that there’s so much left to be covered in such a limited time. This can lead to a poor delivery.
     


  •  Self absorption: This is when you’re so focused on yourself that you pay little or no attention to your audience. You could be distracted by your accent, how good you remember you look, or by the exceptional way you were invited to come up stage. It could be anything. So, your attention gets divided and you can’t connect with your audience as you should.
     
  • Ambiguity of words: It’s hard for your audience to understand what you’re saying because you’re not using simple and easy- to- understand words.  

 

 5 ways to overcome your fear of public speaking 

You must address fear, because it affects your audience’s attention.  

  • Practice: Practice makes you better at what you do. When you practice, your second attempt is better than the first. The third is better than the second, and it goes on and on that way. You could use your mirror to practice, it sure helps to build your confidence. You could watch videos on YouTube. You could follow people that are into public speaking and try to imitate them. Note: There is a technique that has been said to work overtime. You can use your mirror while imagining that you’re in front of your audience. It will build something in you, and that’s confidence.
     
  • Get a coach: It’s been addressed in the beginning that you can learn public speaking. No one is born a public speaker. Get a coach who will help you in this journey of speaking, identify your blind spots and help you navigate your way to being the public speaker that you dream of. 
  • Fully prepare: You should go all out with the preparation for your public speaking engagement. Before you attend, organise your notes and ensure that they are not clustered.  Know about your audience, the message to be passed across, and other important things to know. Practice your speech over and over till you are convinced that you have an idea of what to say. Note that it doesn’t have to be word for word. Practise your speech within the time limit so that you don’t poorly manage your time. If you’re given 10 minutes to speak, practice for 8 minutes to be safe.
     
  • Join a community of public speakers: Join a community where you all grow together, share ideas, introduce yourselves to opportunities and be accountable to one another. Locate them in your area and if you can’t seem to find one close to you internet has made these things accessible. Find a community and be a part of one. A community will challenge you to be better at public speaking
  • Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. 

Lastly, remember this: 

Always remember that no one can do it uniquely like you. To take the pressure off you, make the conversation with your audience easy for you by making them do some exercises or ask them questions to engage them. In all you do, still don’t forget that nobody can do it the way you would. When you sense fear, take deep breaths for a few seconds and carry on.  

In conclusion, remember that you are at the public speaking event in the first place because your host believes that you are competent and has trusted you enough to deliver value. Don’t let yourself down by demeaning yourself in the presence of your audience. Don’t use words like, “I’m not worthy to be here today” or “I have nothing captivating to say to you”. Statements like this put your audience off. Don’t shoot yourself in the leg.       

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