Having a fear of public speaking (or glossophobia) is certainly not unusual. Even those who enjoy speaking in public can feel nervous about standing in front of a large crowd. In fact, up to 75% of people could experience a fear of public speaking, according to one estimate. Whether speaking in public frightens you or makes you nervous, or you just want to improve your public speaking skills, there are many things you can do to become a better public speaker.
You can find yourself in a variety of social situations where you might have to speak on stage or to a room full of people. Being prepared for these instances can help you to feel more confident when you're speaking in public so you can concentrate on meeting your goals.
The following tips for public speakers can help you out if you're nervous and teach you how to be a confident public speaker. You can do multiple things to improve your confidence, as well as gain new public speaking skills.
What Causes a Fear of Public Speaking?
Being scared of speaking in public is a pretty natural reaction. Nervousness or anxiety are fairly common things to feel before you're about to speak in front of a room full of people or a crowd.
There are several reasons you might feel this fear and worry before and during giving a presentation, speech, or performance in front of other people. Social anxiety disorder is one of the reasons why you may experience it. A plethora of things could be coursing through through your mind, including how you will be viewed by others, what will happen if something goes wrong, or what will you do if you forget what to say.
All of these thoughts and worries can contribute towards heightened sense of anxiety or nervousness, especially if your performance might potentially be a conduit to a personal promotion or earning your organisation a lucrative contract.
Having acknowledged the fear element, we have to now move on to how we can possibly counteract and manage the symptoms.
Human brain, as neuroscientist have discovered, possess neuroplasticity. Homo sapiens are capable of rewiring their brains to learn new skills, attitudes and cultivate resilience.
The Symptoms of Glossophobia
A phobia of Public speaking, can manifest itself in a number of physical, emotional and symptoms. Some physical symptoms of anxiety or nervousness are feeling hot, sweaty, a dry mouth or tightness in your throat. Very nervous or anxious people could even experience more severe symptoms like panic attacks, dizziness, nausea, and more.
These symptoms can feel difficult to deal with and can make it very hard to get on stage or be the centre of attention. However, with a few tips for public speaking anxiety, you could be on your way to controlling your nervousness and improving your public speaking skills.
How to Relax Before Speaking in Public?
One of the most important things to work on if you get anxious about public speaking is how to relax and calm your nerves. You might not be able to completely get rid of any feelings of nervousness or thoughts of things going wrong, but you can work on how you address them.
Tips for how to control your breathing and relax your mind and body can be extremely beneficial advice for public speaking. These skills can be practised before you need to speak in public so that you are equipped with the right techniques to relax before you have to perform.
Watching videos of American author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Nick Vujicic & Brene Brown and analysing their body language can give you clues as to how those at the top of their professions approach speaking in front of large crowds of people.
One of the ways you can relax is through meditation. One example is to do mindfulness meditation. Start at your head or feet and work your way up or down, releasing tension in each part of your body.
Be mindful of your breathing and turn your focus on your breath going in and out. You can also picture a calming place that helps you to relax.
Confront the Unknown
It is entirely natural to feel hesitant about unfamiliar experiences, people and smells. Getting to know the space where you will be speaking and how everything will work can help to relieve your nerves.
If you can, try to attend rehearsals in the event venue to familiarise yourself with the space and the vibe. Use the space to practise what you have to say, and try to fill the space with your voice. Enquire about the schedule of events and how things will proceed so you know what to expect.
You can seek therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and speech therapy which are all investments into your mental health with far reaching positive outcomes.
How Famous People Have Overcome Public Speaking?
Thespians, stand-up artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and many others have spoken about their anxiety and fear of public speaking. Whilst some individuals appear to get a real buzz out of performing actively seeking out opportunities to get up on stage, this is not a sentiment shared by the majority of people.
The King’s Speech, a famous 2010 film, deals with exactly this theme through King George VII perspective. An unexpected ascension to the throne following the previous monarch’s abdication pushes a reluctant King George the VII into the limelight. To deal with his stammer he receives speech therapy.
Some thespians, such as Samuel L. Jackson, actually turn to acting to help them overcome their fears. The old adage that practice makes perfect resonates here when it comes to public speaking. Frequent exposure can make the experience appear mundane and inconspicuous.
Warren Buffett took the Dale Carnegie public speaking course to bolster his communication skills and learn how to deal with his fear. Toastmasters international is one such firm that provide courses in becoming a better communicator.
The singer Lorde has been vocal about her personal experience with debilitating stage fright. She used verbal reassurances, in other words, “speaking out loud to oneself” to cultivate positive reinforcement, whilst simultaneously warming up one’s voice.
Barbra Streisand is another performer who has experienced memory problems on stage. She now uses a teleprompter, but if you don't have access to one of those, a copy of your notes or speech on paper should help you out if you get lost and forget what you were going to say.
Mark Twain is credited with having coined the term “stage fright” in his novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. The author himself didn't experience it often, but when he did, he conquered it by putting friends in the audience and instructing them to laugh at his jokes. This might not be feasible for you so alternatively, focusing on one person in the audience and delivering your speech to them can help. especially if they are a familiar face.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career progression saw him move from bodybuilder to actor and eventually a politician. When he first arrived in the US, his command of English was substandard and he did not come across as a particularly charismatic speaker. However, instead of avoiding public speaking, he sought out opportunities which eventually contributed to his career trajectory.
Tips from the Experts
Presentation tips from public speaking experts are actually invaluable. Voice coaches, public speaking experts, broadcasters, are all people who coach celebrities and professionals to hone their presentation and public addressing skill.
Training and development expert Brian Tracy gives a variety of tips to overcome a fear of public speaking. They include choosing a topic that you're passionate about, being organised, and practising as much as you can. He also recommends recording yourself and learning from listening back to your presentation, as well as having someone else review your presentation for you.
Trends forecaster Shivvy Jervis, is a sought after public speaker. Her advice is to get familiar with your material, by way of creating more of a natural dialogue. She also puts the emphasis on creating visual associations with your topic which can be handy memory jolting technique.
Paul Russell, a Doctor of Psychology, recommends trying some calming techniques, such as reminding yourself that the people in the room want to listen to what you have to say. It can be difficult not to worry about what people will think of you, but your audience is ultimately interested in your message.
Communications expert Nancy Duarte says that rehearsing before a public speaking event will help you to understand your audience and craft the right message. Preparing all of your research and materials is important, but don't forget to spend some time rehearsing the delivery of your speech too.
Speaking in public can be nerve-wracking, whether it's a presentation in a meeting or giving a speech on stage. If you get nervous, being prepared and practising some techniques to help you relax and stay calm can help you to tackle it.