There’s a lot of information out there on just how much people fear public speaking.
But what are we so afraid of, anyway? It’s not as if our very survival is at stake — or so you would think. Some psychologists have pointed out that in order to survive amidst large predators long ago, we chose to live in groups. From an evolutionary perspective, anything that threatens our ability to be part of a social group, such as public speaking, can feel like a great risk to survival.
While strong public speaking skills can take years to develop, here are some tips from Forbes Coaches Council members to quickly improve yours:
1. Take Small Steps and Practice at the Location Where You Will Be Speaking
Take small steps and practice a lot. By taking small steps, you avoid triggering the natural fight/flight/freeze reaction as most of our fears come from not knowing what will happen next. When you practice, you become acquainted with your speech and the situation. Even better, if you can practice at the same location you will be presenting at so that you minimize the number of unknown variables. – Claudio Toyama, Toyama&Co.
2. Start With Your Body
Your physiology mirrors your internal state (try getting upset while smiling — can’t do it, right?). To overcome the fear, emulate a relaxed, confident and poised physiology. Stand up straight, breathe deeply, quicken your pace slightly, relax your shoulders and smile. Your internal state will begin to mimic your external state. Physiology is the first access point to an empowering mindset. – Priya Nalkur-Pai, Dr. Priya Nalkur-Pai
3. Connect With Your Audience Early
Arrive 10-15 minutes before your presentation. Defuse any jitters by mingling with attendees, learning more about their backgrounds/interests, and keeping your mind occupied. Depending onyour topic, you should also look for an opportunity to engage the audience within the first 60 seconds. A quick show of hands or the right open-ended question can go a long way towards breaking the ice. – Shawn Graham, Deep Varnish
4. Talk It Out Ahead of Time
Every ounce of familiarity to your material or talking points will count in the long run. I talk through my presentations and workshops ahead of time with someone. Explain the overarching feel, share bullet points, dish on what you want to say. Talk it all the way through. Get comfortable. When it’s time to finally give the presentation, let go a bit and allow your knowledge of the topic to flow. – Dave Ursillo, The Literati Writers
5. Focus on the Positive Outcomes
Anxiety usually stems from imagined possible negative outcomes of your talk. Don’t make yourself wrong by having some fear — we all fear public speaking. As a motorcycle road race winner, I’m intimately familiar with the saying in racing that “you go where you look.” Focus your attention on the positive outcomes you want from your talk, and let your imagined failures fall out of focus. – Dan Kimble, Resonance Executive Coaching
6. Take an Improv Class
As a professional actor turned speaker, I can trace my performance abilities on stage back to what I learned as an actor. Those classes and performances built my confidence in creating experiences for people from the stage. Improv specifically is an amazing way to build confidence and learn how to enjoy discomfort on stage. Once you’re comfortable with discomfort, you risk more and grow quickly. – Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
7. Visualize Your Ideal Self and Mimic Others
Statistics say that three out of four people are anxious to speak in public. However, despite this figure, everyone can overcome speech anxiety. My advice is for you to visualize your ideal version of a public speaker and then mimic it. After some repetition, it will become natural to you. Once done, try speaking first in front of people closest to you, your family and your friends. Once you have done speaking in public once, the fear will disappear, and public speaking will be easier the next time you do it. – Dr. Cherry Collier, Personality Matters, INC.
8. Determine the Cause
Fear starts in the mental messaging and manifests in the visual and behavioral aspects. Start with understanding what the inner critic is saying and change the message. Some powerful techniques I describe in my book The 11 laws of Likability are: Visualization; Act as if; and fake it till you make it real. I also recommend meeting the audience before an event — it makes them less scary. – Michelle Tillis Lederman, Executive Essentials
9. Join Toastmasters
Go to a local Toastmasters chapter and check it out. The beauty about joining a Toastmasters club is to help improve your speaking skills in a safe environment. Everyone in there has been at a beginning level so you are surrounded by supportive people who are dedicated to helping you improve your delivery skills and your confidence, one simple step at a time. – Terra Bohlmann, BrightBound
10. Find a Presentation Partner
Find a partner to co-present with. This will provide a support system for you, lessen the burden on you to deliver all the content, make you accountable, and give you the opportunity to pick up some tips from another presenter. Following a successful co-presentation, you may feel more comfortable going out on your own. – Barbara Safani, Career Solvers