Do you need to overcome public speaking anxiety? You are not alone. Most people are deathly afraid of speaking in public. The anxiety can range from a slight feeling of being nervous to an immobilizing and crippling panic attack. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 74 percent of all people suffer from a form of speech anxiety, also known as the fear of public speaking.
Regardless, if you have something to say, from a big business presentation to standing up at a local school board meeting, you need to face down your fears and overcome public speaking anxiety. Yet, as Mark Twain is credited with saying, “There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” For many, public speaking is worse than the idea of death. Standing up in front of people to express our thoughts and emotions will have us feeling exposed and vulnerable, kicking in our fight-or-flight instincts.
All that said, public speaking is a skill that every business owner and would-be entrepreneur must master. The good news is that most of us can overcome public speaking anxiety with a few easy techniques. Below is a list of tips for reducing speaking nervousness, and face down your fear.
Tips to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety
1. Know Your Topic and Be Organized – The top suggestions from Dr. Craig N. Sawchuk, of the Mayo Clinic, are to know your topic, care about the subject, and prepare well in advance. Taking these initial steps will limit the likelihood of making a major mistake.
2. Practice, Practice, and More Practice – Many people will practice their speech in front of a mirror. However, a study conducted by the late Robert Zajonc, a Stanford psychologist, suggests that practicing in front of a small group will lessen anxiety during the actual presentation.
3. Don’t Aim for Perfection – No one ever has a flawless performance, but the audience will rarely ever notice. Preston Ni, a Fortune 500 organizational coach and trainer, states, “even the best, most experienced speakers make many mistakes. When they do, they recover, keep going gracefully, and all is well.”
4. Tell a Personal Story or Anecdote – Gary Schmidt, the former International President of Toastmasters International, teaches that storytelling is the best way to communicate information. Moreover, it is best to avoid complicated language and jargon. Leverage your passion and enthusiasm instead of trying to sound like an expert.
5. Let the Fear Flow Through You – Research conducted by TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence (EQ) tests and training products, found that people are more alert and will do better in moderately stressful situations. A heightened level of intensity can create a more compelling speech.
6. Visualize a Successful Outcome – Dr. Sawchuk also touts the power of visualization. Taking the time to visualize the audience, venue, and your performance has the power to build confidence. Visualizing a positive outcome will lessen your negative feeling about speaking in public.
7. Open with a Question or Puzzle – When you open your speech with a question or puzzle, you will take the audience’s attention off you. Instead, those listening are thinking about the issue at hand and not judging you and your performance.
8. Avoid Reading or Memorizing – There is a very big difference between speaking and reading or memorizing a script. Thus, attempting to get every word right will only add to your stress levels. Speaking is more about making an impact with your personality. It is not a dry reading of information.
9. Always Be Yourself – Finally, your audience can sense if you are putting on a show. It is good to study speaker styles, but your own passion and personality are what will capture the audience’s attention. Above all else, speaking is not acting.
What are your thoughts? Do you have recommendations on how to overcome public speaking anxiety? If you have questions or suggestions, please leave your comments below.