Not everyone enjoys being in the centre of attention and having to give a public speaking. Most people have this kind of fear known as glossophobia.
This is a common form of anxiety which is usually followed with symptoms that may include palms sweat, feeling nervous and heart pounding.
Almost everyone has been in a situation where they had to speak in public. Whether that was a formal presentation at the university or asking for a promotion, having the right speaking skills are essential to survive in this world.
If you’re struggling with public speaking stay with us because the next few following tips on how to overcome this fear might help you.
1. Why is public speaking so terrifying
If you do a fast check-up and ask people why they fear public speaking, it’s most likely they’ll give you reasons such as “I don’t like being in the spotlight and having all eyes on me.”
And if they manage to speak in public they’ll avoid making eye contact with the audience. Why is that so? There’s very real science that lies beneath the fear of public speaking and eye contact.
Historically speaking, humans perceived being watched as a threat to their lives since they were scared of being eaten alive. And our brain transferred that fear of death when being watched to public speaking.
In other words, we perceive public speaking as a threat and an attack. In history, we had real predators and nowadays those predators can be seen as members of an audience.
The symptoms of how your body reacts in life-threatening situations are pretty much the same when having to speak in public – shaking, shortness of breath, dried mouth and weakened voice.
To sum up, when we speak in public we feel uncomfortable because we feel the eyes are watching us.
Therefore, people feel visible which causes them discomfort and since their brain is sending them messages that they are under attack they do whatever they can to protect themselves (e.g. looking down, focusing on slides).
No matter how confident the speaker may seem, rest assured he or she is doing some tricks on how to distance themselves from the audience.
The first step in preparing for your public speaking is to think about your audience. Ask yourself who is your potential audience, why will they be there and what do they need to hear.
Asking yourself these questions and giving specific answers to yourself will help you prepare better and therefore you’ll be less stressed out.
Try to figure out what the audience needs and send a message that will speak directly to them. Starting with an audience is better than starting with the topic.
If you start with the topic there’s a chance you’ll build a wall between you and the audience that will only make you anxious.
Instead, learn as much as you can about people that will be there.
That will help you choose your words, motivational statement and level of information which will only make your speaking better and you’ll feel more comfortable.
To become a confident speaker you’ll have to practice. There’s a saying ‘practice makes perfect’ and that saying is a secret ingredient you’ll need for your public speaking.
Practicing for a speech or an oral presentation is a good way to feel more confident and comfortable for the big occasion.
Practicing in front of others or talking to yourself will help you have more control of the situation.
If you’re about to have a public speaking in language that’s not your native (e.g. you’re a student on an exchange program and you need to make an oral presentation) it is advisable to attend a pronunciation and fluency course that will help you overcome your fear of public speaking in a foreign language.
You can also write down a script and take notes made of your keywords as a reminder of what comes next.
Try not reading from the script and prepare so well that you’re ready to answer any question someone might ask you.
Remember that public speaking is not just memorizing the words of your entire speech.
The main point is to remember keywords and points and provide the audience with enough examples and subtopics.
4. Nonverbal communication
Paying attention to your body language in public speaking is very important.
If you haven’t noticed it before, you can send not only a verbal message to your audience but also a nonverbal message with subtle clues of your inner state.
Nonverbal communication includes gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, postures and more.
Paying attention of your body language is extremely important because an audience can figure out easily if you don’t believe in what you’re saying or if you’re nervous which may make them suspect you and your knowledge of what you’re saying.
So make sure you pay attention to your body and what kind of nonverbal message it’s sending. Take a deep breath and stand up straight in front of the audience.
Don’t forget to make eye contact with people and smile from time to time.
Try avoiding using any unnatural gestures that could be perceived as rude e.g. leaning on one leg.
It is advisable not to use any kind of a podium when giving a speech or presentation since podiums can make a barrier between an audience and you.
Podiums can help hold your notes but they can also be perceived as a hiding place by an audience. Instead, walk around the area and take control of the whole place and people in it.
With that kind of energy, you’ll look more confident and you’ll keep the audience’s attention which is important when giving an oral presentation or speech.
5. The skill of using humor
Using humour in public speaking is an art itself. If you handle to entertain the audience while teaching them, you’ll definitely leave a great impression on them.
You’ll present yourself as an intelligent and witty person who has a valuable gift of providing people with a burst of therapeutic laughter and knowledge.
Telling funny stories and injecting an anecdote in your speech is a great way to grab the attention of your audience.
Using humour is a helpful tool to relax both you and people in the audience. Humour can help you control your speaking anxiety, and as a result, you’ll feel more comfortable.
People like to hear a personal touch in a presentation or speech and telling a story can provide that. It seems less robotic and memorized word by word.
Telling funny stories and anecdotes you’ll easily get your message across.
6. Record yourself
If it’s possible – record yourself and your speeches. When you’re able to watch and listen to yourself you can easily and faster improve your speaking skills.
You can also realize what the problem was in your previous public speaking that you’d like to work on and improve it. Pay attention to your verbal and nonverbal messages.
Analyze how you handled someone’s questions or interruptions – does your face reveal your feelings and thoughts?
Do you seem annoyed or surprised? If you noticed any of that, practice managing situations like that in the future so you become better.
Feeling nervous or anxious in some situations is normal.
Public speaking is most certainly one of these situations for many people since it provokes fear. This fear makes them feel vulnerable, anxious and worried. As a result, they may not handle the situation of public speaking as they wished.
You can easily recognize symptoms of a fear of public speaking: trembling hands, obsessive thoughts of failure, overthinking, dizziness or nausea. None of these symptoms is comfortable.
If you’re struggling with this fear, hopefully, some of the suggestions listed above will help you to overcome it and improve your business and social skills.
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Stella Ryne is an art historian, traveler, conscious consumer and a proud mother. When she is not trying to improve the things around her (and herself, for that matter), she likes to lose herself in a good book. She’s deeply into green practices, cherishing the notion that sustainable living and sustainable travel will not only make us far less dependent on others regarding the dwellings we inhabit and what we eat, but also contribute to our planet being a better place to live on.