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Beat Your Fear of Public Speaking

I love getting up in front of people and sharing thoughts and ideas. But if you fear public speaking more than just about anything, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 75% of all people have a fear of public speaking.

This fear could be holding you back from achieving your career goals.

Speaking confidently in public is key for presentations and meetings because it adds weight to what you say.

Luckily, since this is such a widespread issue, there are plenty of strategies available to aid you in your fight against the fear of public speaking.

Here are just a few tips on upping your public speaking game:

Sound Writing

Giving a good speech begins with writing a good speech.

Often, the best speeches come from careful planning and a solid understanding of your topic. Do your research, and make sure that the organization of your speech makes sense. You don’t want to have distracting digressions or offbeat examples that interrupt your flow.

When you’re working with good material from the start, you won’t have as much room for your fear of public speaking to take over.

Properly Prep

When overcoming a fear of public speaking, it’s key that you give yourself the resources you need to succeed. This means having notes available in the middle of your speech.

I recommend not overdoing it with the amount of content you give yourself. Stick to your key points. As you practice, you’ll notice lines that you might be having trouble remembering. If they’re absolutely essential to your delivery, write them down as well.

It’s not enough to just have good notes, you need them to be legible and in order.

If you’re using notecards, number the corners and remember the total number of cards. When you practice, you’ll be able to take note of the number you’re on and how far you are through your speech. This way you can gauge how quickly you’re moving through your points.

Practice

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Practice is the best way to establish comfort.

You want to be as comfortable as possible with your material before presenting it to an audience. There are a number of ways to practice, but starting early and often will ensure that you have the foundation you need to succeed.

After you’ve become totally comfortable with how it feels to speak your material aloud, you can move onto more advanced practicing techniques that will help work out the remaining kinks in your delivery.

Keep your audience in mind

It’s important that you remember to whom you are speaking when writing and practicing your speech.

Is this an audience that will appreciate a more casual presentation? What kind of humor would they appreciate? Is the topic of your speech and the atmosphere of the situation appropriate for humor?

When you’re practicing, put yourself in the place of your audience. Think about what you would want from a speaker, both in terms of the information you would want and the presentation.

Pace Yourself

An automatic giveaway that you have a fear of public speaking is speaking too quickly. Rushing through your phrases makes it more difficult to understand what you’re saying.

Also, because speaking too quickly interferes with your breathing, it can make you dizzy (or dizzier than you already are) and lightheaded—never a good combination.

Pushing too quickly through your speech makes you sound like you’re not comfortable with your topic. It’s imperative when speaking in public that your audience trusts your authority, so do your best to pace yourself.

A good rule is to aim for about 2 minutes per page of content.

Pause

Use pauses to not only pace yourself, but to create emphasis for your audience. If you plow right into your next sentence after making a strong point, you won’t give your listeners time to digest.

When your words pack a punch, pausing let’s them truly impact. Your audience can remember and refer to those lines long after you have concluded your speech.

Be Conscious of Your Body Language

Sometimes people are so caught up in making sure that their verbal delivery of their speech is perfect that they forget the importance of physical presence.

Even if your speech is well written and your delivery is practiced, you could be distracting your listeners with bad body language. Pacing, bouncing, and nervous hand movements are awkward and undermine your confidence.

Any movement should underscore your speech rather than distracting from it.

Practicing in front of a mirror can help you recognize the ways your nerves might be translating into your body language.

Go “On Air”

A great strategy for finding the weak spots of your delivery is recording yourself.

You’ll hear the hitches in your voice or places you may speed up or slow down, and be able to adjust them accordingly.

Study the Experts

You know what a strong public speaker looks like, and you can probably name a few off the top of your head.

Watch videos—TED talks, lectures, graduation speeches—of strong and popular public speakers to see what they do right. There may be opportunities for you to apply some of their strategies to your own delivery.

A Little Help from Your Friends

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Since you’re not giving your speech for yourself, it’s important that you get a second opinion.

Snag a close friend or family member, someone with whom you’re the most comfortable, and have them sit and listen to you. This person has to be ready to give you honest feedback when you’re done.

Since you’re so close to the language and the delivery at this point, they can help you uncover your blind spots.

They can also take a better look at your speech and presentation as a whole and let you know if all of the parts are coming together: tone, inflection, body language, etc.

Clear Your Mental Space

Your final preparation before your speech should be to clear your mind and calm yourself the best you can.

A huge part of the nerves people experience when faced with a fear of public speaking comes from the fear of public failure. You don’t want to be judged by your audience, but with the proper preparation, you don’t need to worry about that.

Remember that your audience is there to hear you for a reason—whether that’s your expertise, experience, or simply for pleasure, they are choosing to spend their time listening to you.

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