Do you suffer from the fear of public speaking? If so, you are not alone.
Speaking and presentation skills are crucial “must-haves” to advance in your career. Opportunities to speak are business-building and career-boosting situations that can’t be ignored. When you act in spite of fear, you will increase your opportunities to succeed on any speaking platform.
Here are tips to help you reduce your fears:
Offer to speak when opportunities present themselves. Most people fear public speaking and that keeps them from presenting, which leaves a vacuum that you can fill.
Know your topic and audience
Doing your homework and thorough research will reduce fear. Most people are very under-prepared when they get up to speak.
Be prepared to answer tough questions
Think of the worst questions you could be asked. Be prepared with answers to those questions and you will reduce mental stress and anxiety.
Planning and practising the opening minutes of your presentation is critical. The reason is, the beginning of a presentation is when you are the most nervous and your audience is simultaneously the most sceptical. Knowing your introduction well will help you to sail through the scariest part of your presentation.
Many people invest time in preparing written content but the written word is very different from the spoken word. Often, the way you write may not be the way you would naturally speak. Speaking out loud will do much to prepare you. As you practise, you will naturally find yourself changing and improving your content.
Practising aloud will also give you increased confidence because when you present, it won’t be the first time that you are doing your presentation. Practise your entire presentation a minimum of three times before you deliver it. If you are short on time, practise your opening and your final call to action as much as possible.
Always warm up
Warming up your body and voice right before an important presentation will make you feel more comfortable and will help to relieve nervousness. A minute of jumping in place and singing will make you look, feel and sound more relaxed and energised.
Give up the idea of perfection
Many people assume that they must be perfect when they present or perform. Anyone who has been in front of audiences often can tell you that perfection is impossible. Give yourself the space to be human. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them one presentation at a time.
Be of service
Focus on being of service to your audience and speaking the language of “what’s in it for them”. This will take the focus off you and put it onto your audience where your focus belongs.
Don’t apologise for yourself
Remember, people want you to be good. Don’t apologise for yourself. Simply speak from your heart and do your best.
Remember to breathe
If you feel nervous, simply focus on inhaling deeply and exhaling long, slow, steady breaths. Focusing on your breathing will calm you.
Hold a microphone in your non-dominant hand
If you are given a handheld microphone, hold it in your non-dominant hand. You will feel more confident gesturing with your most powerful hand, which is the hand you normally write with.
Join Toastmastes, a speaking association or an acting class
Toastmasters’ groups, speakers’ associations or even an acting class can teach you very important verbal communication skills and provide a supportive environment for you to practise.
If you don’t have these resources available to you, run your presentations by several family members, friends or colleagues you trust for constructive feedback.
There is no substitute for practice. It is the only way to mastery.
Hire a professional coach
If you have a very important presentation coming up or if your livelihood or income is connected at all to your communication skills, consider hiring a professional coach.
Top athletes would never enter a competition without the support of the best coach they can find. If you want to excel at anything, having a good coach to guide you will give you access to a quantum leap in your performance in the shortest amount of time.