Beginners Guide to
Did you know that fear of public speaking ranks #2 among most people’s top dreads? Yes, it goes above and beyond fear of illness, fear of flying or heights, and even fear of terrorism, and death itself.
Yes, it is amazing that most people rather die before standing on a podium to give a speech! And I know better, cause I’ve been in that position myself… I’m not saying that I wanted to die, just that it is one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve been in, especially at the beginning of my public speaking career. I must tell you that it gets easier with time, but stage fright never goes away completely.
Speaking in front of a congregation or to a crowd may be a harrowing experience for most of us. From physical symptoms such as accelerated pulse, blushing, breaking out into a sweat, dry mouth, nausea, and blurred vision, hand tremors, amongst others, to the internal dialog we must deal with (such as “People will laugh at me“, “I won’t be able to communicate my message clearly“, or “I will make a fool of myself“), the whole experience can be nerve-wreaking!
And sometimes, when the speaker gets an extreme case of performance anxiety, the words may escape his mind and the message may end up lost without getting the point across. This situation only aggravates things. The presenter may experience feelings of insecurity, defeat, fear of being criticized and rejected, and other uncomfortable feelings that no one wants to experience and much less in public.
Regardless of how good your presentation is, how much you prepared for it, or how well meant your message is, if the delivery is random and messy, it will be invaluable.
The good news is that public speaking is an art that can be learned. It includes not just mastery of the subject, but self control and lots of practice. Being well prepared for your speaking engagement has no substitute. And, with dedication and constant practice, you will be speaking to your audience confidently in no time at all.
You must be wondering why I said above than stage fright never goes away completely. Glad you are paying attention 🙂
Well, it’s true. Stage fright never goes away 100% mostly because many factors are beyond your reach. For example, the location, equipment malfunction, your plane being late, and even the type and size of the audience you will present to, among other things. Assuming all other factors are in check, the art of public speaking has to do more with self-confidence than anything else. This means that even though stage fright might be present, the more confident you become, the easier it will be to keep the anxiety in check.
Here are some pointers for you to follow during your public speaking endeavor:
- Practice Visualization
Several days before your speaking engagement, take time to do this exercise. Take a deep breath and relax. Now picture yourself in front of the audience delivering the speech confidently and see the crowd listening with interest, taking notes, smiling, nodding in agreement, and finally standing up and giving a round of applause as you finish. As with any visualization, the more you do it, the more effective it will be and the more confident you will feel. For a successful visualization, add details and emotion. Feel it “as if” you were already there, giving your presentation!
- Practice Your Presentation or Topic Beforehand
Make sure your presentation is topic-oriented, appropriate for what the audience is expecting and at the level of understanding. This includes even the language you will use. Draw a small audience to practice with. Assign a timer and an evaluator during the simulation exercise. The timer records the length of your delivery so that it fits perfectly within the allotted time, giving you the opportunity to cover all of your information, and possibly leaving time for Q&A. The task of the evaluator, on the other hand, will be to check on the manner of your delivery – as well as the content of your topic.
- Be Confident
Being a bit nervous is quite alright but over doing it can detrimental. Confidence relieves nervousness in any undertaking and especially in public speaking. You can build the confidence needed to prevent feeling anxious by working on simulated speaking sessions prior to the speaking engagement. Show your confidence by mastering your topic -not mere memorizing- but by truly knowing your topic inside-out. Everything that you need, such as equipment and technical requirements, must be set up and tested prior to the presentation day.
- Present-ability and Body Language
First impressions count. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Comfort is a primary consideration. Clothes/suits that you don’t feel comfortable with can affect your stance and disposition on stage. Use your body language to your advantage. Present in a charismatic way that draws the attention of your audience.
Stand tall and erect (good posture), maintain eye contact, and precision-time your movements on stage.
If you need to use gestures to express a point, that is OK but don’t overdo it. Moving lightly can release some tension and nervousness. A hand in the pocket also works wonders while on stage rather than flicking your hands around. Always pay attention to your audience’s reactions in the course of your presentation. There may be signs of ineffectiveness and you may need to make little adjustments as you go to capture your audience attention back. Injecting humor when appropriate is good but make sure the topic of your presentation allows for it. Be careful not to overdo it either.
- Speak with Conviction
Believe in every word you say. This will radiate through your audience and will manifest your confidence and mastery of the topic you are presenting. During an open forum, listen to the questions being asked and respond accordingly.
Finally, remember to take sips of water as you go to prevent dry mouth, walk from one side of the stage to the other at a nice pace, and be conscious of the fact that you are talking to an audience not an individual, so change your eye focus from one person to another as you talk.
Here is a secret… we know that every speaker gets nervous at one point or another, even after years of delivering speeches and lots of practice. This is because every audience is different, the topics may vary and our level of confidence changes from one day to another for a variety of reasons.
Some days we may feel more confident than others, so take that into consideration and feel at ease with this fact. It is perfectly fine to feel a bit anxious but that doesn’t have to disable you when you’re speaking in public.
I invite you click on the image to the left, and watch the 2 minute video by Tom Antion, an expert worldwide public speaker and successful entrepreneur. With over 2700 presentations worth of experience, he’s put together his website with the largest collection in the world of content related to public speaking, presenting and how to make big bucks doing it. This website is vast, no kidding!
You’ll surely find exactly what you need for a successful presentation no matter what your topic or level of experience!