Did you know that people are more afraid of public speaking than of death? It’s true! I don’t know if that is your case but if you are here it’s because you, like most people, have the fear of public speaking (glossophobia). This is a very common form of anxiety. The fear can range from being a little nervous and jumpy to paralyzing fear and panic. Don’t worry, you will be able to overcome this fear following these simple tips.
However, before we begin, you might want to know why people are so afraid of this. It’s not you, it’s evolution. Let me explain. When people are asked what makes them nervous in public speaking, they usually answer:
“ I don’t like being watched”
“I hate the eyes on me”
“I don’t like being in the spotlight”
In prehistoric times, humans perceived eyes watching us as an existential threat. Those eyes were likely predators. Humans were terrified of being eaten alive. When this happens, the Amygdala (the part in our brain that helps us respond to fear) activates. This triggers our fight-or-flight response, giving us a sudden feeling of total stress and anxiety.
What does this have to do with public speaking? Everything. Unfortunately, with evolution, we have transferred this ancient fear of being watched onto public speaking. This anxiety is in our DNA. We experience public speaking as a threat. That is why most people internally die when they have to speak in public. You might be one of those people. But it is important to overcome this fear since it is a skill you will need in life. So keep on reading and hopefully, you will feel better the next time you have to experience public speaking.
Tip #1: Know your topic
The more you care and understand about your topic, the less likely you will be to make a mistake or get off track. By really knowing your topic, you will be more confident speaking about it and even show more passion. If you do get lost, you are most likely to recover quickly. Also, try to come up with questions that the audience might ask and prepare some responses. This is helpful to avoid getting caught off guard.
Tip#2: Get Organized
When you organize your thoughts and materials ahead of time, you become more calm and relaxed. So carefully plan the information you will present including audio or visual aids. The more organized, the less nervous and anxious you will get. To stay on track, have an outline of your presentation so you have all of your points at hand, and the order of them. This way you will avoid blackouts and you will not forget what to say next.
Tip#3: Practice, and then practice some more.
Practice your whole presentation over and over again until you feel confident and ready. Then, present it to a small public such as your friends and family, and don’t be afraid to ask them for feedback. You need that feedback. With the given feedback, practice again some more. The best way to practice is to record yourself in order to see what your weaknesses and mistakes are. Another useful way is to practice in front of a mirror.
Tip#4: Watch Yourself In The Mirror
As lame and awkward as it sounds, it is the best way to practice and recognize your mistakes. If you start laughing at yourself when you do so, it’s because you can’t even take yourself seriously, and if you can’t, then other people won’t either. When practicing consider the following:
- facial expressions
- body movements
- How welcoming you seem
Tip#5: Visualize your success.
It’s obvious that you will infest yourself with fear and anxiety if you only have negative thoughts and scenarios of what could go wrong. So stop for a minute, eliminate those horrible thoughts and focus on the positive ones. You will relieve a lot of anxiety once you realize that good outcomes exist as well.
Tip#6: Do some deep breathing.
We all heard this one, so it must be effective. Breathing will calm you down, so before you get up to the podium, do some breathing exercises. There are several breathing exercises, so use the ones that best work for you.
Tip#7: Refocus your brain
We get nervous in the first place because we feel intimidated by our audience. You might feel that they are judging you and about their reaction if you fail. Here is what you do: you refocus your brain. Remind yourself that you are here to help the audience. They are not here to judge you, they are here because of the information you will communicate to them. You have to tell your brain to not be self-absorbed because the truth is, it’s not about you, it’s about helping the audience (unless you are famous, then they might be here for you. In that case, good luck).