- Do your legs start shaking when you have to stand up and speak in front of an audience?
- Do you sometimes feel that the words you are about to speak make no sense whatsoever?
- Do you often start a sentence and then somehow forget how to finish it?
If you’ve felt any of these when speaking in public you’re almost certainly suffering from the affects of what’s commonly known as stage fright – caused by the fear of public speaking.
And given just how often this can hit even the most capable of people when having to speak in public, it’s not hard to see why the fear of speaking in public is the number 1 fear for so many people. And that means that more people are less afraid of dying than they are of having to speak in public. Can you believe that!
In reality, probably just about everybody who has to get up and speak to an audience feel the effects of nerves to some extent. However the successful ones (and there are many) are those who have got used to these feelings and know how to overcome them and eventually are even able to use that nervous energy to their advantage.
So what are some of the best tips to help people overcome this fear of public speaking?
Overcome Public Speaking Fear – Tip 1
Firstly, just realising that many people actually go though this sickly feeling just before speaking – and then succeed is useful knowledge. The kick in of adrenalin doesn’t have to be the end. If you can get used to that feeling – just a bit – then you can also recognise it as part of the game. So the more you experience the effect the less debilitating it can become.
The feeling of fear that you are experiencing is called ‘fight or flight’ syndrome and this is something that you have inherited from back in the stone ages. Back then, when man was faced with a dangerous situation such as being attached by a wild beast, he had to either fight the beast for survival or quickly flee – to avoid being attacked. Adrenalin was automatically produced to give him the energy to fight or flee the situation. So whenever he was faced with danger – an injection of adrenalin was the body’s automatic response.
However, in modern days, we still have a similar response, not just to actual danger but also to perceived danger. And when you are about to stand up and deliver a speech you often go through the emotion of perceived danger – due to the nerves and anxiety you may feel.
Overcome Public Speaking Fear – Tip 2
Also, the fact that adrenalin is pumping through your body at that very moment means that you are energised – for many it’s a feeling of sickness – and they often give up – but for others that initial feeling is quickly overtaken by the high of getting the audience behind you and being centre stage. Ask any stage actor and they’ll tell you just how often they go through both these feelings.
The reason why you may feel sickness is because when in fight or flight mode, the body draws the blood from the stomach to transfer it to the muscles so that they are ready to act quickly and work more effectively. The energy created by the adrenalin is then utilised in a positive way to help you give a more dynamic performance. One way to release the energy is through your voice. You can do this by speaking slightly louder and slower than normal. You will probably need to do this anyway when speaking to a group – so that they can hear you more easily. You can also transfer the energy into your body language, using your posture to give you a stronger physical presence.
Overcome Public Speaking Fear – Tip 3
Prepare yourself before you speak. That means knowing what you’re going to talk about, ie your material.
Being clear about what you want to say can really help you control your nerves. Make sure that you have a strong structure to your speech – with a definite opening and clear middle and a strong ending. Your opening should give the audience a strong motivation to listen to you. You need to grab their attention so keep your sentences short and punchy at the start – as this will sound more dynamic that a long rambling sentence. The main body of your speech also needs to be succinct. Remember, less is more – so keep it simple. Aim to have no more than three main points to your speech. This makes it easier for you to stay on track and easier for your audience to follow. And end on a strong note – with a final sentence that the audience will remember.
Overcome Public Speaking Fear – Tip 4
Know your audience and if possible speak with some of them beforehand.
The more you understand your audience, the more you can adapt your material so that it is relevant to them. To develop a greater understanding of your audience it’s helpful to create an audience profile by considering some of the following questions.
What level of expertise will your audience have? By considering this, it will help you to pitch your speech appropriately to the audience needs. If for example they not very knowledgeable then you may need to provide more concrete examples to help get your ideas across.
What is your audience’s current attitude towards your topic? By considering this, you will develop a greater awareness of any more negative opinions, that your audience may have. By being aware of them beforehand, you can prepare for any difficult questions that your audience may ask.