How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking in Seven Powerful Steps
By Ed Sykes
Have you ever avoided a career or business opportunity because it required you to speak publicly? Did you ever have a great idea you wanted to share in a group setting but didn’t because of your fear of speaking in front of a group of people?
You are not alone in the fear of public speaking. In my travels, I have seen where the fear of public speaking have kept otherwise very successful people in all walks of life from achieving their full potential. When you let this fear dominate your life, you lose out on promotions, business opportunities, community activities, and most of all self-confidence.
The following are seven powerful secrets to empowering you to overcome your fear of public speaking and achieving a new level of success in your career, your business, and your life:
Ask yourself, “Where does my fear come from and is it real?” Was there a public speaking opportunity in the past that you think didn’t go well or that you felt was poorly prepared? Maybe you had to stand up in front of your classmates in high school or college and someone made what you perceived as a negative comment concerning your presentation. Maybe you gave a good speech but you started to over analyze every detail of the speech.
First, realize that whatever happened did so at another time and place and you are no longer that person. With new experiences, you have grown into a more confident person with much to offer. Second, embrace feedback, extract the true areas of improvement from the feedback and work to improve your public speaking ability. Be honest and fair with yourself and determine if the feedback is coming from someone who is qualified to give quality feedback. I had one presentation skills student whose manager told her she was a poor speaker because she moved her hands and arms during the presentation. Was the manager giving qualified feedback?
Doubtful. Yet, this manager’s feedback affected this employee in a negative way for years until the employee became my coaching student.Again, separate qualified feedback from unqualified feedback and learn from it. Also, don’t allow negative public speaking situations that happen in the past apply to your present or future public speaking opportunities.
Face Your Fear of Public Speaking
The fastest way to overcome any fear, much less the fear of public speaking, is to face your fear and attack it. Look for and embrace opportunities to make presentations. Start with non-threatening opportunities such as your children’s school meeting or a non-work related situation and work your way up to more important, high pressure situations such as work meetings.
Realize that each time you speak is an opportunity to improve your speaking ability. Look at your public speaking skills as a muscle. The more you exercise your public speaking muscle, the stronger it becomes and you will improve your speaking abilities. Go into each public speaking opportunity with a clear set of goals. Maybe for your first speech, you may have a goal of eliminating “hums” and “ahs.” For another speech you may have a goal of completing your speech with a powerful ending.
Visualize Your Public Speaking Success
Invest time the night before you speak to visualize what a successful speech looks, sounds, and feels like and how you will feel while giving it. If you don’t see it yourself, it won’t happen. Most presentations can be dramatically improved just by investing time ahead of the presentation to visualize a successful outcome.
Master the Material
Invest the time to know what you are presenting. Invest time to rehearse several variations of your speech. Rehearse your speech as if something goes wrong. What if your PowerPoint goes down, you forget a section in your speech, or someone heckles you? How will you react? If you know your material well enough, you will be able to overcome any presentation challenge.
Master Your Public Speaking Mind
During a group coaching session, a presenter started speaking, made a mistake and promptly announced, “I hate speaking in public!” In this instance, she did not manage her public speaking mind, and let her fear of public speaking take over her performance. When you make negative statements concerning public speaking, it will reinforce your fear of public speaking. Take the time to replace negative statements with positive public speaking affirmations.
Take Time to Analyze Your Performance
In most cases, we are our own toughest critics when speaking. Whenever you speak, videotape or audiotape your presentations, sit down, and honestly analyze your performance. Once you start to record your presentations, you will realize that some of the issues you were worried about aren’t in your speech and you will instantly see areas of improvement and address them accordingly. As the old saying goes, “The video doesn’t lie.”
Ask for feedback from people you respect and who can give you quality, supportive feedback that will empower you to want apply the feedback in your next speech. Before your speech, tell the person you ask to give you feedback what your public speaking goals are and what you are working to improve. Once you analyze your areas of improvement, immediately go out and exercise your public speaking muscle and apply the improvement.
Reward yourself for any improvements in your public speaking skills. The reward is up to you, but make sure to immediately reward yourself.
Bonus Public Speaking Tip: If you forget a word or a phrase during your speech, never apologize and keep speaking as though nothing happened. Unless the audience has a detailed transcript of your speech, they won’t know what you forgot. Don’t let the fear of forgetting something in your speech keep you from giving great speeches.
Now, go out and exercise your public speaking muscle to give outstanding presentations. When you apply the seven secrets to overcoming your fear of public speaking, you will realize more opportunities and gain a new level of confidence.