74% of people have a fear of public speaking. In fact, it is one of the most common fears. There’s even evolutionary reasons behind why so many people fear public speaking even more than death (at least on surveys).
It can be a quite powerful fear. This fear can get in the way when you are trying to improve speaking skills. It can even make you feel hopeless that you’ll ever get any better.
If you find yourself feeling anxious at the thought of speaking in front of a crowd, you’re not alone, and you’re definitely not helpless!
We’ve got 10 tips to help you overcome this fear and improve speaking skills.
1. Prepare and Practice Alone First
One of the most important things you can do to improve speaking skills is to prepare what you will say. Then, practice it on your own until you know your speech inside and out.
When you know exactly what you need to say, you will get a boost of confidence. You won’t have to worry so much about blanking out on stage.
It is a good idea to practice alone first, before practicing in front of friends or family. When you say a new speech out loud the first few times, it is natural to stumble or lose your place.
If you find yourself stumbling in front of friends or family, it may make you feel more self-conscious and lower your confidence. If you run through your speech on your own first, you’ll get more of a confidence boost when you practice in front of loved ones.
2. Practice In Low-Stakes Situations
You may have to give a speech occasionally for work or another organization you’re a part of. However, for many people, these speech opportunities are few and far between.
With overcoming a fear of public speaking, you need as much practice as possible. This is a like exposure therapy for anxiety. By practicing public speaking as much as possible, in situations where failure won’t be damaging, you can help get over your fear.
You will be able to improve your skills as well. As you become a better public speaker, you will naturally develop more confidence in your abilities.
Therefore, it is better to practice public speaking before you have a major presentation looming. Write speeches on things that interest you, and perform them for your friends and family. This practice will help you build your skills and confidence.
3. Visualize The Right Outcome
If you spend your time before your speech thinking of all the ways it could go wrong, your anxiety will go through the roof!
Instead, think positively! As cheesy as it might sound, visualizing positive outcomes actually reduces stress. It also keeps your brain busy, so you can’t focus on the negative.
4. Learn From Other Speakers
There is no such thing as one “right” way to give a presentation or speech. If you are trying to fit yourself into a style that doesn’t match your personality and comfort levels, this may be contributing to your fear.
A great way to improve speaking skills and move past your fear of public speaking is to learn from other speakers.
If there is someone you know who gives great speeches, ask them to meet for a coffee. They will be able to give you advice.
Another great way is to watch other speeches and try to find someone whose style matches yours. Look at sources such as TedTalks. As you watch videos, take note of techniques you would like to try.
5. Put Yourself Out There
There are likely a lot of opportunities in your day to day life where you could gain experience to improve speaking skills.
Perhaps you could volunteer to give a small presentation at work to your colleagues. Or, maybe there is a small committee you could join where you would need to speak at meetings.
Without overwhelming yourself, take advantage of the speaking opportunities in your everyday life.
6. Say Goodbye to PowerPoint
PowerPoint can often be more of a hindrance than a help. It is easy to get distracted, and managing a PowerPoint is one more thing to think about while you present.
Any time you spend perfecting your slides is time you could have spent practicing your presentation.
Instead, focus on giving a strong enough presentation that people can follow it without the visuals. If you feel you must have a PowerPoint, keep it simple and with the least amount of slides necessary.
7. Dress for Success
When you are confident in your appearance, you are more confident overall. When giving a presentation, make sure that you dress for success.
Ensuring that you wear a suitable, comfortable outfit will give you one less thing to be anxious about.
8. Be Patient When You Improve Speaking Skills
Always remember that public speaking is a skill. You wouldn’t expect someone who wanted to learn to draw to create perfect portraits on their first try.
In the same way, remember that you won’t be perfect the first time you try to give a presentation. Don’t get discouraged if you feel that you aren’t progressing fast enough.
You’re learning a new skill and overcoming a fear. Those are both big projects! Instead, think about how far you have already come.
9. Learn from Feedback
Feedback is one of the best ways that you can improve speaking skills. Whether this feedback comes from loved ones or from a speaking school, it will help you make improvements.
Ask for positive feedback as well as areas you can improve upon. The positive feedback will give you a confidence boost so you can more effectively tackle the areas that need work.
10. Stick to the Plan
When you are giving a speech, don’t think about anything else. Don’t worry about how your voice sounds, what you look like, or whether the audience is paying attention.
When you allow thoughts like this to race, you will just become more anxious.
Instead, do all the thinking in advance. Prepare, practice, and dress well. Get the feedback you need beforehand and work to make your speech better. When it comes time to do your speech, do it as you practiced.
Trying to make changes on the fly will make you more likely to make an error or lose your place. It throws all that hard work you did beforehand out the window. So stick to your plan!
If you have a fear of public speaking, there is a lot you can do to get past it! With the tips in this article, you can take some real steps towards becoming a better and more confident speaker.
The best way to do this is to start! So get out there and practice, practice, practice.
Still getting nervous up on stage? That’s normal! Check out these tips to manage anxiety at your next presentation.
Also published on Medium.