If so, you are certainly not alone! On various lists of fears, public speaking is often listed as number 1, ahead of the 3 frightening occurrences as death, divorce or disease.
No matter what business or organization you are in, sooner or later you are going to have to speak in front of people; whether it’s in front of people at a small meeting, making a presentation to potential clients, or introducing a new product in front of a large crowd.
People who cannot get up and speak with some degree of comfort and confidence in front of other people are often prevented from using their gifts to best advantage, both in business and in other parts of their lives.
Following are three simple tips on how to get over fear of public speaking. They can help you wrestle that particular fear right down to the ground, or at least to a manageable level.
ONE: Change the movies you are running in your mind.
When we are afraid of something, we tend to run horror movies in our mind. We see ourselves arriving late, losing our notes, forgetting our glasses, tripping on the way up to the podium, getting an instant case of laryngitis, having a lightning bolt come through the roof and striking us senseless on the floor.
No wonder we are afraid of public speaking when we are running movies in our mind that scare us senseless.
Change the movies in your mind to ones where everything goes smoothly. You are well prepared, arrive early, have all your notes and materials in order, walk up to the podium with confidence, deliver your remarks with conviction and ease, and handle any goof-ups with humor and a relaxed manner. (Speech-making secret: Well handled goof-ups not only make your remarks more powerful and memorable, they make you far more relatable.)
Huh, you’re thinking, “Of course I breathe.” I’m sure that you do; but when we get nervous, we tend to take shallow breaths, which in turn make us even more nervous.
Instead, when you start feeling nervous, focus on breathing in deeply for several counts, and then breathing out slowly for several more counts.
Focusing on breathing slowly and deeply not only helps to calm your nervous system; it also helps to take your mind off any last minute horror movies that might dare to pop up.
The sports version of this hint can be found in Timothy Gallway’s book, The Inner Game of Tennis, published in 1997. He was the first person to popularize the concept of using your breath to help you focus on successfully completing a task, in his case, becoming a top-level tennis player.
THREE: Use the nervous energy you feel to give vitality and enthusiasm to your speech.
Everyone feels some nervous energy before performing (and speaking is definitely performing); so do what all the best performers do.
Use that nervous energy to enliven your remarks so that you can easily keep the interest of your audience, and thus meet the goals you have set for that particular speech.
For some hints on how to handle speaking goofs, click here.