–written by Kate Stoneburner
Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, is one of the most common phobias, and many people avoid public speaking in order to escape their anxiety. But dodging the microphone or avoiding speaking in front of others can have career consequences that are worse than that temporary feeling of dread!
At RMC, we use public speaking opportunities to demonstrate leadership, draw positive attention to top performers, and give our people a chance to share their perspectives.
Avoiding public speaking invitations simply because you’re afraid is doing yourself a disservice that could stifle your career growth. You can overcome your fear of public speaking by approaching it with the right attitude and by calling on a few helpful tips and tricks.
Here are eight of the best tricks for keeping your fear of public speaking under control:
1. Focus on Them, Not You
Public speaking anxiety often centers around feelings of insecurity about how you look and sound. By focusing on what the audience is getting out of your speech, you can take your mind off those worries about being judged.
Remember that you’re speaking in front of a crowd to communicate something important to you. The more energy you put into conveying your main point, the less you’ll have available for self-criticism.
2. Speak from the Heart
Public speaking can feel awkward because we may think we have to pretend to be someone else – someone smarter – more knowledgeable. Instead of playing a role, just be sincere. Use examples you know well, relate to, and about which you feel strongly.
The audience will pick up on your passion for the subject. When you speak in front of a crowd about your own perspective, you’re more likely to remember your speech, remain calm, and be convincing and compelling.
It may seem obvious, but breathing properly is a proven technique for overcoming anxiety. It reminds you to stay in the moment and get out of your head, and it slows you down, which prevents rushing through your speech and allows you to build confidence as you go.
Breathing deeply also helps you control the sound of your voice, and it has a calming effect that prevents nerves from creeping up on you.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
The better rehearsed you are, the more confident you’ll feel on stage, helping mitigate any fear of public speaking. Focus on your delivery more than specific words, and practice reading your presentation aloud.
If possible, perform your speech in front of an audience, even if it’s just a friend or a pet! Practice also helps eliminate “ums” and “likes”—filler words that can hurt your professionalism.
5. Take Pauses
When you’re nervous, it’s tempting to rush through your presentation, but taking occasional pauses can help to calm your nerves and improve your delivery. Pauses create a break in your speech, which gives the audience a chance to react and absorb your message.
Pauses help to add emphasis and can force you to get back into the moment rather than obsessing about the next line you have to recite.
6. Embrace Your Nerves
Don’t judge yourself for being nervous. Your anxiousness about public speaking is a sign that you care about doing well and you’re invested. Studies have shown that trying to stop yourself from being nervous is a losing battle.
Instead, transform your nerves into another feeling: excitement. Use your nerves as a way of bringing energy to your presentation as you speak in front of a crowd
7. Start with a Story
When it comes to public speaking, what people will remember most is how you start and how you finish. Begin with a story, joke, or memory to draw the audience into your presentation right away.
This also helps you put their focus on your message rather than your performance as a speaker.
8. Don’t Memorize Every Word
It’s tempting to rehearse to the point that you know every single word, pause, and inflection by heart. This could backfire big-time if you happen to miss a word, completely throwing you off for the rest of your presentation.
Instead, memorize the beats, the main points you need to make, and instead of focusing on the exact delivery, put energy into staying in the moment and connecting with your audience.
Taking center stage to speak to a crowd is an exciting opportunity to share your voice and demonstrate your ability to motivate and inspire. As daunting as it may seem, try to enjoy the moment.
Remind yourself of the potential benefits of doing a good job, and remember that the people in the audience aren’t there because they want to see you fail. They are there to learn something and to hear what you have to say. Prepare yourself well and your ability to capture the crowd may surprise you.