What is your initial thought when someone mentions the words “public speaking”?
- The experience is motivating and I enjoy the buzz from being in front of the crowd!
- I get butterflies, anxious and worried and I don’t sleep the night before. Yet, I know that it will eventually finish and I will live through the experience.
- I try to avoid public speaking at all cost. I thoroughly despise it.
If you answered B or C, you are not alone. In fact, approximately 75% of the Australian population can suffer from ‘glossophobia’, which is the fear of public speaking.
If you answered A, well, you are one of the lucky ones!
For many of us, public speaking makes us feel exposed and vulnerable, where we dread the prospect of refusal or rejection. We tend to focus on the negative possibilities, forgetting the powerful and significant benefits that can arise. Some of these can include earning the respect and admiration from your colleague and gaining vital communication skills, which are imperative in career development.
Luckily, for many, ‘glossophobia’ can be addressed and the extent to which the symptoms are experienced, reduced. The following are five tips to reduce your fear of public speaking for once and for all:
Harvest the adrenaline
The fear of public speaking stems from our physical symptoms. Our hands sweat and shake, we feel ill and we sense a form of energy which we can’t release. This sense of energy is adrenaline-based which is fed to us for vital moments, such as allowing us to escape from danger.
When this adrenaline is created for public speaking, we lack the physical action needed to burn off this adrenalin. This then encourages us to either fidget, talk fast or pace unconsciously in an attempt to burn and release this liveliness.
Whilst this adrenaline is occurring, learn to recognise it in the first intake and then try to focus and redirect this energy to master your speech. Realise that you have unconsciously created this adrenaline due to your determination to achieve your goal. Understand and appreciate the active buzz inside you that is encouraging you to confidently present.
Avoid reading from a script by relying on key words and simple sentences if you can. This will ensure that your speech is engaging – no one likes to feel like they are being read a monologue when a speech is being delivered. By relying on certain phrases, it makes you speak from the heart. By incorporating this language into speech, you can combine your subject with a sense of personalisation, making the speech sound conversational and engaging. By using terms and phrases with which you are comfortable and/or familiar, you can help to harness the nerves too.
The ‘Offstage Beat’
To represent a character, a great actor focuses on the character’s emotions and their story behind their personality. The actor immerses themselves into the person, visualising what they are feeling. This is essentially the ‘Offstage Beat.’ Before your presentation, ask yourself: what character should I pretend to play to confidently allow me to finish this speech? Whatever the role, understand that you need to fake it before you make it.
The light at the end of the tunnel
For entrepreneurs, it takes eight words to either sell or ruin a pitch. Therefore, skip any causal introduction and begin your presentation with a powerful statement. Memorise these key phrases to demonstrate your determination to prove a point. When delivering a speech, it is common to feel most anxious at its commencement and by focussing on familiarising yourself with your opening lines really well, you are giving yourself the best chance of success. Like the beginning, conclude the speech with a question or statement that stimulates and inspires your colleagues with a call for action.
Learn to grow
Public speaking is a skill that often needs practice and nurturing. Sure, it comes more easily to others, but with time, it should come more easily to you. This can essentially be achieved by practicing, filming yourself or asking for feedback from colleagues, family and friends. Be open to ideas and criticism and enable yourself to learn. Often, words written on paper sound entirely different when they are read. So, practice, practice, practice… even if it is only in front of the mirror (or the family dog!) to start with before you gain confidence to present to friends or family.
Public speaking is one of the most feared forms of communication, and yet, it is extremely important for career progression. For many of us, we panic about the idea of speaking and not the speech itself. To master this issue, prepare and understand what your fears are. Realise adrenaline is essentially your body supporting you and mentally generate an image of what your persona should be. Although a speech may make you feel uncomfortable, recognise that the presentation will finish and you will live through the experience.