Here’s a fun fact that you might not be aware of: According to most public studies, people fear public speaking more than death. That’s right. The majority of people would rather be buried six-feet under than have to get on stage and talk in front of other human beings.
That’s ridiculous when you think about it. Public speaking is a short-term event, after all, sometimes lasting mere minutes – even seconds – as opposed to hours. Death, on the other hand, is permanent. There’s no coming back from that. But who said human beings were logical creatures?
Extreme as it may sound, I can totally sympathise with the above mindset. Personally, I absolutely hate public speaking and the range of emotions it can bring. The thought of getting up on stage in front of my peers, clutching a flimsy sheet of paper like some sort of life raft at sea is enough to make me want to pack my bags, find a deserted cave and live the rest of my life as a recluse.
So why do we detest public speaking so much? Well, it’s quite simple really: we’re afraid of rejection, we’re scared of failing, and more importantly, we’re too concerned with embarrassing ourselves in front of others. Sound familiar? Well, if you’ve made it this far then I can only assume you’re nodding along in agreement.
What can we do, then, to change this predicament? How can we overcome the fear of public speaking, also known as Glossophobia, without the need for hours of therapy, or any shock tactics?
The hard truth is that you’ll always be nervous before public speaking. Difficult to swallow, I know. But nerves are something you can’t eradicate forever – even the most famous musicians get butterflies before a big concert. However, there are steps you can take to make you feel more comfortable and confident on stage.
Here are 5 tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Be Prepared
An old school friend used to tell me, “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” And he’s right. The better prepared you are, the more relaxed you’ll feel knowing that you’ve done everything you can to ensure things run smoothly.
If you’re haphazardly putting PowerPoint slides together in a desperate bid to get things finished, or scribbling a half-hearted script in the taxi to your speaking event, I guarantee you will feel stressed and worried that something will go wrong.
So, although it’s tempting to watch one more episode of Game of Thrones, make sure you spend your time efficiently – that way, when your conference rolls around, you can relax knowing you’re fully prepared.
2. Practice, Then Practice Some More
“Practice makes perfect.” Another common phrase that just so happens to be bang on the money.
Just like proper preparation, practising a speech or performance before an event is crucial if you want to eliminate any pitfalls that may arise. Ask a family member or friend to give you some feedback if you’re delivering a talk, or simply practice in front of the mirror.
It may sound silly, but you’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.
Remember: actors, musicians and even talk shows have rehearsals for this very reason – you should too!
3. Believe In Yourself
OK, I can see you rolling your eyes, but it’s honestly one of the most important points on this list. If you believe in yourself, then you’re guaranteed to succeed no matter the outcome.
Self-belief is something that we all struggle with and a lack of it can strike at any time. But you have to ask yourself bluntly: what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, I know those Doctor Pepper adverts played on this idea, but I promise nothing will be as bad as what those adverts portrayed!
If you believe in yourself, and your abilities, then you will feel more confident. I recently gave a presentation to a small group of peers and I just kept repeating this mantra in my head.
Put a smile on your face, stand up tall and remember, just believe in yourself!
4. Hire an Expert
I’d consider myself relatively handy around the house. I can build a few pieces of furniture, bleed a couple of radiators, but I don’t have time to learn everything there is to know about plumbing, for example, nor do I have the tools available. So what do I do when the toilet’s playing up? I hire an expert, of course.
When it comes to your presentation the same rule should apply. Why waste time toiling away in PowerPoint or Keynote, especially if you’re not tech savvy. You want your slides to resonate with your audience, keep them engaged and empower your presentation. That’s where a presentation designer can help.
A presentation designer can help elevate your presentation by making it look more professionally and visually appealing. This not only benefits your audience – it also benefits you, as a speaker. If you know your message is coming across clearly, you can be more confident as a presenter and participate with your audience. Oh, and you’ll also have plenty of time to prepare and practice!
5. Get More Exposure
This, as any therapist familiar with cognitive behavioural therapy will tell you, is the ultimate cure to your public speaking woes. However, it’s also the hardest pill to swallow.
By partaking in more public speaking opportunities, and exposing yourself to the very fear that cripples so many of us, your brain will eventually ascertain that this ‘speaking in front of other humans thing’ isn’t that bad. And the more you do it, the more you prove to yourself (and your brain) that you’re 100% capable. And when you believe in yourself, and your brain reinforces that belief, that’s when your anxiety will, for the most part, disappear.
But of course, this isn’t easy, but if you follow the 4 previous steps, number 5 will take care of itself before you know it!
Don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back. Prepare, practice, believe in yourself and hire an expert if you need to. Seriously, you can do it.