Nervousness before giving a speech or a presentation is not just normal, it’s one of the most common anxieties. Public speaking, even when you’re doing it in a Zoom meeting from the comfort of your home, can be frightening and everyone responds differently. Whether you’re a person that experiences minor symptoms of nervousness like fidgeting or speaking too quickly, or someone with an intense fear, there are a few tips and tricks to help you get through your next speaking engagement.
Here are 10 ways to lessen your fear of public speaking, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:
1. Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing can be very relaxing. Take a few slow, deep breaths before your turn to speak and remind yourself – it’s going to be okay.
2. Be the Expert
You will feel much more confident in yourself if you have a strong understanding of the topic you’ll be speaking about. Additionally, the more knowledgeable you are about your topic, the easier you will be able to recover if you get tripped up or off-topic. Be sure to also practice your responses for any questions you can anticipate.
3. Organize It
Make sure you have a plan. This is not the time to wing it! Organize your presentation from start to finish, including any props or technology you will be utilizing. Create an outline or notes based on the order of your presentation to help you remain focused. Do a dry run on-site if you have the opportunity – this will help you feel much more comfortable on the actual day.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Practice your presentation as many times as you can. In the shower, in the car on the way to work, while you’re making dinner – the more you practice, the better. If you can practice in front of some supportive friends or coworkers, even better. It’s a great idea to record yourself giving your speech so that you can play it back and see what areas need work.
The more you say the words out loud, the easier your public speaking engagement will be.
5. Don’t Fear the Silence
If you stumble on your words or lose your train of thought while speaking, don’t panic. What might feel like an obvious flub or long pause to you likely won’t even be noticed by your audience. The best way to get back on track is to pause, take a breath, and refer to your outline.
6. Seek Help
Find a support group to learn valuable tools that can help you overcome your fear or take a class in public speaking. Then you can practice in front of a group without the pressure of an authentic speaking engagement. With many in-person meetings halted due to COVID-19, check for virtual meetings.
7. Think Positively
“Fake it ‘till you make it” is many folks’ mantra for a reason. If you believe that your presentation will go well, chances are that it will! Thinking positively about your presentation each time you practice will help trick your brain over time to associate public speaking with good feelings.
8. Face Your Fears
Being worried is a natural response to a stressful event. Over analyzing and inflating your fears is unhealthy and will cause you even more stress. To combat this, write out all the things you’re worried about happening. Then, go over them and challenge those notions by identifying the most likely outcomes (spoiler alert: it’s almost never the most catastrophic option). This will help you kick your concerns to the curb.
9. Stay Focused
Worrying about what the audience is thinking or doing is a recipe for increased anxiety. Instead, focus on the material you’re talking about. Your audience will be interested in the information you are presenting and more than likely will not recognize your uneasiness.
10. Finally, Congratulate Yourself!
When you’re done, you should be proud. You did it! It might not have gone exactly as planned, and you may have done all 10 of these steps and still tripped up a bit but you know what? That’s okay. You are your own worst critic, likely much more critical of your performance than anyone else would be, and even if you did mess up, you still gave the speech and conquered your fear. Take a few moments to congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Feeling nervous about public speaking is perfectly normal. With these 10 tips, you’re well on your way to banishing that fear and giving a great speech!