Have you seen the television ad for Google’s Nexus 7 that features a boy faced with the daunting prospect of presenting a school report to his classmates? The commercial opens with the boy doing a search on glossophobia and discovering it’s the official term for speech anxiety or fear of public speaking, a relatable cause. Even the most extroverted person has probably experienced anxiety, nerves, or fear when speaking in public.
When it comes to phobias, public speaking often tops the list, even outranking a fear of death. Although that sounds extreme, it makes sense when we consider that singling ourselves out in front of a crowd leaves us vulnerable to rejection. At our most fundamental, we are social animals and we interpret the possibility of being kicked out of our social groups as a worst case scenario.
But simply knowing why most of us fear of speaking to a crowd doesn’t make it any easier to give those presentations or attend events where we’re expected to stand and talk with all eyes on us. However, there are ways to manage and overcome our speech anxieties and our public speaking phobias.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking:
1. Be Prepared
Thoroughly understanding the topic you’re talking about will help to overcome the fear of public speaking. Having intimate knowledge of the information should give you a boost of confidence. The more comfortable you are with the subject matter, the less likely you are to ramble, forget something or lose your place.
When you know your stuff, you won’t need to memorize. Memorizing can lead to a mental block if you miss a line because your brain expects all the words in a particular order. Also, be organized: prepare whatever notes are needed ahead of time and have any paperwork, props, or other aids ready.
2. Think Positive Thoughts, Visualize, and Relax
Don’t make yourself anxious by dwelling on what could go wrong when speaking to a crowd. Instead, think positively and visualize yourself giving a fantastic speech or presentation. See yourself walking from the room feeling confident that you delivered a great message that impressed your audience.
Mentally walk yourself through this over and over again, each time visualizing success at every step. When it comes time to speak publicly, make an effort to relax before you walk into the room or step up to the podium. Take a deep breath and allow your body to release any tension.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing your speech out loud will help you feel more comfortable with the words and the sound of your own voice. It will also help you understand how to recover if you get lost or forget a piece of information. Practice in front of a mirror and read your material out loud to a friend or family member. Ask for their feedback, put their suggestions to work, and then practice some more.
The more you practice, the less your brain will need to actively think about what you’re doing and the more instinctual speaking aloud will become.
Sooner or later, most all of us will be in a situation where we need to speak aloud to a crowd. Putting all these tips to work should help you ease and even overcome the fear of public speaking so when the time comes, you’ll be prepared, relaxed and confident in your ability to deliver and succeed.