You’re standing behind the curtain, prepared to walk onto the stage and face the many faces in front of you that are half-obscured by darkness. With each step closer to the spotlight, your body begins to feel heavier. A familiar thump reverberates throughout your body—your heart rate has skyrocketed.
Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one who suffers from glossophobia (also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes the anxiousness begins long before you take the stage.
Your body’s defense mechanism reacts by releasing adrenaline into your bloodstream, the same hormone released when you’re being hunted by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
Experts say we’re hardwired to show nervousness and identify it in others. Your audience will notice if your body and mind are tense. As a result, it’s critical to prepare yourself prior to the big show so that you arrive on stage calm, collected, and prepared.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
When you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach, here are some helpful strategies to calm your racing heart:
If you’re nervous, your body is likely to react in the same manner. You feel stiff in your body, your muscles are tight, and you’re breaking out in cold sweat. You will be noticed by the crowd if you are nervous.
If you notice that this is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a few stretches to loosen and relax your muscles.
Warming up before each speech is recommended since it helps the body’s overall functional capability. Not only that, but it also enhances muscular efficiency, reaction time, and movement.
Here are some exercises to help you relax before the show:
Neck and shoulder rolls
The rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, releasing the muscle, which helps reduce upper body muscle tension and strain. Stress and anxiety can cause us to become rigid in this area, making us agitated, especially when standing.
During a speech or presentation, we frequently engage this region of our muscles through hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can help you relax, loosen up, and enhance your range of motion.
Rotate your waist in a circular motion with your hands on your hips. This exercise focuses on releasing the stomach and lower back regions, which is important because it might induce discomfort and pain, which will accentuate any anxiety you may have.
Have you ever felt parched just before speaking? Then walking up on stage in front of the audience and sounding raspy and scratchy? This occurs as a result of the adrenaline from stage fear drying up your mouth.
To avoid all of this, it’s critical that we be well hydrated before giving a speech. A sip of water should be enough. Drink in moderation, though, so you don’t have to go to the bathroom all the time.
Sugary beverages and caffeine should be avoided because they are diuretics, making you thirstier. It will also increase your nervousness, making it difficult for you to talk clearly.
Meditation is well-known for its effectiveness in calming the mind. Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and Good Morning America Weekend, and author of the book 10% Happier suggests that meditation can help people feel calmer and more quickly.
Meditation is similar to a mental workout. It offers you the strength and focuses to filter out the negative and distractions by speaking encouraging, confident, and strong words.
Meditation, in particular mindfulness meditation, is a popular way to relax before taking the stage.
Sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then returning your mind’s attention to the present without slipping into worries about the past or future – which most certainly includes fumbling on stage – are all part of the exercise.
People who are afraid of public speaking have a tendency to concentrate too much on themselves and the prospect of failure.
Do I appear to be amusing? What if I can’t think of anything to say? Do I make a fool of myself? Will people pay attention to what I have to say? Is anyone interested in what I’m saying?’
Instead of thinking like this, focus on your one true purpose: providing something of value to your audience.
Determine how far you want your audience to go following your presentation. Adapt your speech to their actions and expressions to ensure that they are having a wonderful time and will leave the room as better individuals.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides to us that are continuously at odds: one is full of power and courage, while the other is full of doubt and insecurities. Which one are you going to feed?
‘What if I make a mistake during this speech?’ What if I’m not as amusing as I think I am? What if I forget what I’m supposed to say?’
It’s no surprise that many of us are apprehensive about presenting a presentation. We only serve to bring ourselves down before we have a chance to shine.
This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a belief that comes true as a result of our actions. If you believe you are inept, it will eventually prove to be true.
Positive mantras and affirmations, according to motivational coaches, tend to increase your confidence during the most important situations. “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!” tell yourself.
Instead of focusing on the negative “what ifs,” use your adrenaline rush to support a positive outcome.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal encouraging her audience to turn stress into something positive and offering coping strategies:
4. Understand your content
Knowing that you have all of your information at your fingertips will help you relax because you’ll have one less thing to worry about. One approach to get there is to practice your speech several times before giving it.
It is not recommended, however, to memorize your script word for word. If you forget something, you can end up cold. You’ll also come across as unnatural and unapproachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people make the unintentional error of reading from their slides or remembering their script word-for-word without understanding the topic, which is a certain way to stress themselves out.
Understanding the rhythm and content of your speech will make it simpler for you to put thoughts and concepts into your own words, which you can then explain to others in a conversational manner.
Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
Memorizing the overarching concepts or ideas in your pitch is one approach to grasping it. It allows you to speak more naturally and show off your personality. It’s almost time.
5. Practice makes perfect
Many of us, like the majority of people, are not naturally suited to public speaking. Rarely do people come up to a huge audience and deliver a superb presentation without any prior research or preparation.
In truth, some of the best presenters make it look effortless on stage because they’ve spent many hours practicing behind the scenes. Even great orators, such as the late John F. Kennedy, would spend months planning their speeches.
Public speaking, like any other ability, necessitates practice, whether it’s rehearsing your speech in front of a mirror or taking notes. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes.
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with being nervous before giving a speech in front of a crowd.
Many people are afraid of public speaking because they are afraid of being judged if they expose their actual, vulnerable selves. However, as a speaker, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more genuine and sympathetic.
Drop the pretense of attempting to appear or speak like someone else, and you’ll discover that the risk is well worth it.
You become more authentic, adaptable, and spontaneous, making it simpler to deal with unforeseen events – whether it’s answering tough questions from the audience or dealing with a technical issue.
It’s simple to figure out your natural speaking style. Simply choose a topic or issue that you are passionate about and discuss it like you would with a close family member or friend. It’s the equivalent of having a one-on-one talk with someone.
On stage, selecting a random audience member (with a presumably relaxing face) and speaking to one person at a time during your speech is a terrific approach to do. You’ll find that connecting with one individual at a time is easier than trying to connect with the entire room.
That said, depending on how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others, it may take some time and practice to be comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others.
Presenters like Barack Obama are prime examples of genuine and passionate speakers:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not least, if you’ve ever given a public speech and had a poor experience, try to look at it as a lesson learned that will help you better as a speaker.
Don’t be too hard on yourself after a presentation. We are the toughest on ourselves, which is a good thing. But when you’ve finished your speech or presentation, give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself.
You persevered in completing your tasks and did not give up. You didn’t give in to your anxieties and doubts. Take pride in your job and believe in yourself a little more.
Improve your next speech
As previously stated, practice makes perfect. Ask someone to film you during a speech or presentation if you want to improve your public speaking skills. After that, keep an eye on yourself and see what you can do to better your performance the next time.
- After each speech, ask yourself the following questions:
- What was my score?
- Is there any place where you could improve?
- Is it possible that I sounded or appeared stressed?
- Is it possible that I stumbled over my words? Why?
- Was it possible that I used the word “uh” too much?
- What was the speech’s flow like?
- Make a list of everything you saw and continue to practice and improve. With practice, you’ll be able to better manage your worries about public speaking and appear more assured when the stakes are high.