There’s no denying that public speaking can be scary and uncomfortable. Standing in front of a crowd with all eyes on you can create an immense amount of anxiety and pressure. If you’re afraid of public speaking, you’re not alone. According to Yahoo!, glossophobia (or the fear of public speaking) is one of the top 10 most common phobias in the U.S. However, with a few tips, anyone can be on their way to mastering the art.
Here are five surefire ways to overcome your fear:
Practice makes perfect: The easiest way to improve your public speaking skills? Know your material. It’s important to remember that the most effective way to practice is to read your materials out loud. Grab some friends or coworkers you feel comfortable with and practice your speech with them. Doing this gives you the opportunity to get feedback and learn where you can improve. If you want to take it a step further, sign up for public speaking groups, such as Toastmasters.
Don’t be afraid to pause: There’s nothing worse than listening to a speech where the speaker is rushing through their points, making it impossible to follow along. An easy way to avoid rushing is to pause between points. Pausing will help you gather your thoughts without cluttering your speech with vocal fillers – such as “um” and “uh.” Pausing also helps you regain your composure and relax. The movie the King’s Speech provides a great example of this. In it, a speech therapist teaches King George VI to pause between thoughts – improving his public speaking abilities and helping him overcome his stutter.
Take a deep breath: When adrenaline kicks in, your body’s automatic response is to take short deep breaths – causing your heartrate to rise and panic to set in. According to WebMD, deep breathing is one of the top 10 best ways to relax, reduce stress and ease tension. Deep breathing slows your heartrate and will make you feel better. Need an example? Check out these six breathing exercises that will relax you in 10 minutes or less.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: Let’s face it – no one is perfect. Some of the best public speakers in history, such as Winston Churchill, made mistakes and you will too. If you do mess up, avoid stumbling on words and apologizing, as it will place your speech in a negative light. Instead, simply laugh it off and keep going. Enthusiasm is the key to keeping your audience entertained.
Reinforce your message with visual aids: Visuals are an easy way to persuade listeners, emphasize your key points and increase listeners’ retention rate. According to public speaking coach Gary Genard, listeners only retain 10 percent of what they hear. However, when visuals (such as graphs or slides) are added, listeners’ retention rate jumps to 60 percent. Add something new to your presentation by using the Touchjet Pond Projector. With the Pond, you can project your visual onto any flat surface and interact as you go.
Have you overcome your fear of public speaking? Share your story in the comments below.