How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
The fear of public speaking (aka glossophobia) is one of the most regularly identified fears among humankind with many people ranking it of higher concern to them than the fear of death!
For the huge proportion of people who suffer from it, whether mild or severe, we know the signs and symptoms: increased heart rate, memory loss, moisture being absorbed from the mouth to magically reappear in the form of profusely sweating armpits. For me, it was that my hands would shake as if I was holding a jackhammer. At times it felt frustratingly irrational, my brain would look down at and scream, “STOP SHAKING!!” all to no avail.
Ah, but did you notice the subtle change in tense? WAS.
Perhaps you found yourself here because you have a presentation at work or school coming up, or are prepping a speech for a celebration event, but regardless of circumstance, find hope in the truth that glossophobia is a fear that can and should be overcome. So without further ado here are my top FIVE tips for punching glossophobia in the face:
1. PRACTICE – people hate this one, but it is the most critical. Seize every opportunity that you can to speak in front of a group. You can read all the books and articles you want, but until you are up there, you will never break through your fear. Practice doesn’t have to be in a formal setting either, just contribute in a group discussions, get used to sharing an opinion, watch how people respond. Watch the fear melt away!
2. PURPOSE – often people are nervous about public speaking because they are not convinced of their content. You need to know the value of your words otherwise you will never communicate them with passion or integrity. Move from the question, “People need to hear this?” to the statement, “People need to hear this.” This shifts your internal response to fear from “flight” to “fight” which is way more productive when you are on the platform.
3. PLANT – no, I’m not talking about doing some garden work up front (though that could make a great illustration) but rather, plant smiles for the hard times, that is, have people that you trust sitting in your audience that you know will smile when you look at them. How do you know they will smile? Because you ask them to beforehand. Yep, planted smiles, I’m not kidding. It will work wonders for overcoming your fear, especially during delivery.
4. PREPARATION – like a foundational slab of concrete that has had time to dry, good preparation builds confidence. Prepare early: know your props, passages, points and power-phrases. Sometimes this means having notes, but please don’t hide behind them! Internalize the flow of your presentation so that you can have confidence in your direction.
5. POINTERS – have (at the very least) one trustworthy person give you feedback so that you never stop learning. The more you learn, the more confidence you will build when it comes to public speaking. Feedback isn’t always negative. The pointers that you get will also affirm all that you did well, so that you can incorporate these qualities the next time you are up front.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous a couple of minutes before speaking publicly, however my hands no longer shake and the fear goes after my first few words are spoken. Try embracing these tips and I hope the same can be true for your experience of public speaking!
Got some funny symptoms of glossophobia or helpful techniques? Comment below!