Your heart beats fast, and you feel like fainting. Your hands are clammy, your tummy is restless, and you feel like throwing up. But you can't.
You’re in a meeting, and you’re about to deliver your team’s presentation. Everything seems to depend on you. You take a deep breath and earnestly pray, hoping you won’t be stuttering throughout your talk.
And it’s always like this. You never seem to gain the confidence to stand in front of a group. It doesn’t matter that you know the report inside-out. It doesn’t matter that you wrote the report yourself. It never seems to be enough, and you always feel like an idiot speaking in front of a crowd.
Don’t worry; you are not alone.
In fact, 75 percent of people experience ‘glossophobia’ or the fear of public speaking.
Conquer your public speaking anxiety
The fear of speaking in public isn’t something you can really conquer or get rid of just like that. The best that you can do is find ways to manage your public speaking phobia.
To do just that, here are some tips you can apply to help you face your audience with confidence, and finish off your report or presentation with a smile.
Whether you’re scheduled for a panel job interview or are slated to give a presentation justifying why your department should not be dissolved, preparation is key.
You need to have your speech prepared. You also need to anticipate certain questions so you can come up with ready answers and present supporting evidence (as needed). But if you have the freedom to talk about anything under the sun, then you can apply the following:
- Choose a topic you find interesting.
- Get to know your material inside and out.
- Rehearse in front of a mirror or with a friend.
- Study and get to know your audience.
- Consciously resist negative thinking by using affirmations or inspirational quotes.
- Be optimistic; always expect a positive outcome.
- If you are speaking in an unfamiliar venue, visit the place ahead of time.
- Keep a complete, typed copy of your full speech and take it with you come presentation day.
- Use index cards (or anything you want to use) to write down your speech outline.
- Exercise, go for a brisk walk, or a short run around the park. This should reduce anxiety by 50 percent.
- Eat food that will help you relax, such as foods rich in tryptophan (turkey, salmon, dairy products), as well as complex carbohydrates. Avoid stimulants or anxiety-inducing caffeine, sugary foods, and fast food.
- Get adequate, good quality sleep. This will ensure you are alert and ready on the day of your delivery.
Presentation Day Moves
Odds are you have a web page and several social media outlets where you promote yourself, but just think of what an effective showreel can do to increase your visibility online. When your name pops up, your showreel should be right there along with it so people can simply click and watch. A unique, succinct showreel will stand out from the rest and can result in a great number of shares.
Finally, it’s the day of your speech. Follow these tips to be able to confidently deliver what you have painstakingly prepared.
- Eat a few hours before your speech schedule. Avoid eating immediately before your speech delivery.
- Power dress! Wear clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in. Make sure you feel and look your best.
- Again, consciously let go of negative thoughts; stay optimistic.
- If you can’t keep it in anymore, talk to a friend and share your fears. Venting can give you comfort.
- Keep your index cards (or whatever mnemonic device you are used to) on hand to guide your speech.
- Rehearse your speech for one last time.
- Go backstage for a few minutes before your speech, so you get a feel of the podium or stage, and get a good view of the crowd.
- Keep moving to warm yourself up, and keep anxiety at bay.
- Visualise good things (guided imagery), and apply other anxiety reduction techniques such as deep breathing, aerobic exercise, and deep muscle relaxation.
- If you need to, go to the bathroom a few minutes prior to your scheduled talk.
- Keep yourself hydrated during your talk. Take a glass of water or a water bottle with you.
Actual Presentation Time
You know that you are adequately prepared. So all you need to do now is to deliver your piece the best way you can.
- Mind over matter. Be excited, and look forward to your talk.
- Touch the podium. Connect with it to keep you grounded. Make the podium your safe space. Remember to remind yourself that you are safe and standing on steady ground.
- Pat the pocket where you have a full, typed version of your speech neatly folded. You’re not going to use it, but it’ll give you comfort knowing that it’s there.
- Utilise presentation tools to keep your talk alive, and to engage audience attention elsewhere. Show relevant videos, use PowerPoint slides, distribute handouts or fliers, or present objects that are relevant to your topic.
- Engage with your audience and leave yourself behind. Note their expressions and responses.
- Focus on amiable, friendly faces in the audience.
- Use humour where appropriate.
- Don’t stay glued to the podium. Gesticulate, and walk around as required.
- Control your tone and inflection.
- Speak slowly and clearly; avoid mumbling.
- Speak from your diaphragm, so you sound pleasant.
- Be animated as appropriate; make your speech a living, breathing thing.
Steps for Further Self-Development
Aside from practising the above when you have a scheduled talk or presentation, you also need to find ways to engage in public speaking training.
Enrol in an acting school and register for corporate presentation classes. Join public speaking clubs, and attend seminars and conferences where you can practise your public speaking. Challenge yourself and deliberately seek out opportunities to demonstrate how you can manage your public speaking nerves.
Be brave and offer to talk if the opportunity is something that interests you. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself desensitised of your fear of speaking in public, and always ready to confidently talk in front of any crowd.