I meet people every day with a real fear of public speaking – or to give it the official title, Glossophobia. There are a host of reasons for this fear, and often it is a combination of several issues. Anything from genetics passed down to other environmental, biological or psychological problems.
The fear they experience can be just the same if they are presenting live in a packed room of their contemporaries or on a busy conference call online.
Some people have had a bad experience and are scared of repeat performance or are anticipating a problem and thinking themselves into a negative situation.
Others fear they will appear nervous, and the audience will interpret this as a lack of knowledge.
Some think they lack the necessary skills to deliver and many fear the physical reactions they present when they talk in public, anything from a dry mouth and sweating to a shaky voice and a racing pulse.
Some fear going blank in front of a crowd and, other people I meet are constantly comparing themselves to others and fear they don’t measure up.
Whatever your reservation is to public speaking, it is understandable, but ultimately most of these can be overcome with some hard work and some simple public speaking tips.
Know your audience
The first thing to say is your audience isn’t there to find fault with your presentation. They are not trying to catch you out or revel in your misfortune. They have signed up to hear what you have to say and want to listen to you.
However, it is crucial to consider them when you prepare your presentation or speech. Think about those attending and their level of knowledge around the topic. Will a detailed presentation suit them or will to much detail lose their attention?
Your grasp of the subject matter should allow you to impart just the right level of information on the audience. Being able to tailor your approach based on the audience will inspire a more favourable result.
Thinking about the audience in this way helps to change your mindset. You are giving them information that they want rather than you presenting to them in the hope that they like it. It puts you in a more positive position from the start.
Don’t Seek Feedback
When you engage in conversation with an individual, it is reasonable to expect some non-verbal responses that help you to judge the success or otherwise of your dialogue.
When you are delivering a speech or presentation, especially when you are delivering it virtually, you are less likely to get this type of feedback. Your audience is not engaged in that type of dialogue, contributing as they usually would. They are listening to what you have to say. So don’t wait for or seek that level of approval.
If you can start with this mindset, it reduces the stress you have perhaps felt in the past when you have not had this positive reinforcement of your performance.
There are very few if any, good public speakers I have come across who are not well prepared. It might seem too many as if they are blasé or have everything completely under control, but every one of them will have put in a lot of work to prepare.
You have been asked to present, so it is expected that you know your topic. No one is expecting encyclopedic knowledge, and you should never be afraid of questions from the floor, however, you need to know and understand your area and not just the ten or so slides you might be using as props.
Again, as mentioned, you need to prepare your supporting content, whether that is a PowerPoint deck or film content. You need to plan out how this fits into the presentation; how to control it and what cues you are going to use to link to the speech.
Finally, there is no substitute for rehearsal. You may or may not have the opportunity to get in and rehearse in the space before you present. However, even before that, you need to find some way of delivering your speech out loud to other people. Going through the motion of presenting and talking will let you pick up the physical and emotional cues that you will need on the day.
You are likely to get more feedback from your family or colleagues, which is excellent. Use this and adapt appropriately. Also, use this opportunity to dispel the myth that you aren’t capable of this.
This preparation will help you build the confidence that you know your subject and negate the fear about going blank. I talk quite a bit about this in my podcast, The Agile Speaker.
This may seem a little obvious, but if you genuinely want to be better at public speaking and reduce the fear you have, then you need to practice.
There will be opportunities all the time to speak in front of a crowd. Whether that is at a company away day, at a team meeting, or perhaps you opportunities outside work where you can step forward and take responsibility.
There are also public speaking groups such as Toastmasters or meetups, where you will have the chance to learn from others in the same position.
Every time you do this, it will get easier. Our aim, however, is not to remove all nerves or apprehension; otherwise, your performance will suffer from a lack of conviction. It is to reduce it to a manageable level so you can perform at your best.
Successful Public Speaking
The fear people have of public speaking can be hugely challenging and can hold you back in your career or life. There are many approaches, and these are just a few public speaking tips we hope will help you to manage your emotions and deliver successful addresses.