Posted by Lawrence Michaels 1435 Days Ago
Having a fear of speaking in public is one of the commonest fears in the world, affecting most people to some degree, especially if they haven’t had much experience of speaking in public.
Here are my top tips, based both on my personal experience and through the many clients I have helped:
Visualise giving your speech. This is probably the most important and helpful thing you can do. By mentally rehearsing beforehand, your mind starts to build a positive template and expectation for how you will perform on the day. I have outlined a specific exercise for how to do this on my blog here: https://lawrencemichaels.co.uk/an-exercise-to-improve-your-fear-of-public-speaking/
Make friends with your audience. Think of your audience as friends because, unsurprisingly, they want you to be a success! If possible meet some of them before you start speaking, especially those that will be sitting closest to you. If you can engage with them at a level that allows you to learn just a little bit about them, why they might be there etc it really does help to lower any anxiety as they are no longer complete strangers. If however they are people you know well and you are still nervous then that’s even more of a reason to go and talk to one or two of them and tell them that you feel a bit nervous! They will emphasise with you and any anxiety you still have is lessened even more because you have already got it off your chest rather than keeping it inside.
Prepare well and practice lots. Really know your material and then practise as much as you can. Run through the speech with a timer so you can gauge how long it will be. When practising remember to speak slowly with lots of pauses. You need more pauses than you might think you do as people need time to both listen…and then understand and take in what you are saying. Keep your focus on what message you want to get across and make it is as easy as possible for them to understand it. Keep the message simple and avoid too much complicated explanation or detail.
Start as you mean to go on. Start off by welcoming the audience. Pause and then give them a brief summary of what you will be talking about and most importantly what they will learn or benefit from by listening to you and why it is important. This then sets up a positive expectation and hopefully a curious and genuine interest in listening to you. Then take a good pause …..before starting your speech.
Eye contact. As you start speaking find two or three people in the audience that are happy for you to make eye contact with and seem interested and have a welcoming, open body language. Glance back to them fairly regularly as well as giving others eye contact too. Focus on them rather than people who perhaps don't look so friendly or welcoming!
Humour is the magic ingredient. Try and have a couple of humorous short stories or examples in your talk, ideally making sure they illustrate a relevant point. If you do stumble, forget or trip over your words and it’s obvious you can even make that briefly humorous as everyone will have sympathy and understanding.
Make your words the focus not handouts or power points. A common mistake is to put too much emphasis on lots of reading material or wordy power points. Keep handouts to a minimum and ideally wait until the end before giving them out. Power points are a great way of emphasising what messages you want people to take away with them, if they are clear with short bullet points and ideally with some humour or image of some kind.
Make the most of your voice. Your voice is a powerful tool so use it. Vary the tone and pitch of your voice, emphasising key points with more volume. This is so important.
Practise how to walk and stand in front of an audience. When you practice your speech also practise how you stand and walk. This sounds simple and yet so many people either stand rigid in one place or more often stride back and forth across the stage. You ideally should look comfortable standing still, with your hands gesticulating every now and then, feet comfortably apart and without fiddling. This can take practice when you are speaking at the same time. It’s also good to walk to different parts of the stage every now and then, trying to make sure you speak when still rather than walking. The best speakers will use particular points on the stage to emphasis certain messages, building audience association with these places. Often this means using one area of the stage when giving examples or stories.
Enjoy it! The best part is that once you have done it a few times and built up your confidence and abilities, you will start to enjoy it, especially when you start getting good feedback from people