I’ve always actively avoided standing in front of crowds. I had a serious fear of public speaking. Despite having valuable information to share, I worried I would freeze up and look like an amateur.
Whenever people suggested that I add speaking to my business, I made excuses to avoid it at all costs. My opinion about speaking changed when I started feeling a bit restless in my business. I love writing; writing will always be my first love. But I wanted to experiment with something new and speaking seemed like the next logical step.
If you’re considering speaking and terrified about the prospect, you’re not alone. I’m a shy introvert who used to come up with a million reasons why I never spoke. However, it’s something I now enjoy doing and I’m proud to have recently participated in a speaking engagement at an annual conference that’s the “go to” one in my field.
Here are some tips for overcoming the speaking fear:
Develop Your Routine
Routines and rituals are your friend when you’re anxious. When my hair looks good and I feel comfortable in a space, I feel confident speaking. Before speaking recently, I went into the meeting room while it was empty and stood at the podium. This helped ease my fear of the unknown because I knew exactly what it would look like when I was on stage.
Develop your own habits, routines, or rituals before a presentation that make you feel comfortable. Maybe you listen to a meditation routine, wear a certain outfit, or repeat a mantra over and over. Do what puts you in a positive and relaxed headspace.
Cover All of Your Bases
Don’t rely on any one piece of technology to see you through. I created a PowerPoint for my presentation that didn’t work. Thankfully, I had memorized some information and wrote down notes. If not, I would have been in a bit of trouble.
Flesh out the purpose of your talk, write down your talking points, and practice speaking aloud. I practice in the car. If you have a long commute or do a bunch of errands, it can end up being hours spent practicing that doesn’t even eat into your regular schedule.
If you’re feeling unsure your first time around, find a way to make speaking a joint venture. I spoke at the conference as a moderator for a panel. I introduced the topic and each panelist. The crowd was a bit reserved with their questions so I was tasked with keeping the conversation flowing for 45 minutes. It was great practice in thinking on my feet and it was nice to have the support of other speakers in keeping the presentation moving.
Watch Other People Speak
Watching speakers on YouTube and attending other speaking workshops has also helped with my anxiety a bit. One thing I’ve come to realize in watching other people is that few are absolutely perfect speakers. It’s not about perfection. It’s about getting ideas across in a clear manner and engaging the audience.
Seeing other speakers talking about their own nerves helped me be less critical of myself for having my own fears. You can also pick up on different things speakers do in their talks that you can incorporate into your own.
Video is very different from speaking in public. With video, you’re looking at a camera instead of a room full of people. However, video can help you practice speaking aloud clearly. If you stumble over words or use a lot of filler words like “um,” you can work on cleaning up your speech.
Coming from someone who was deathly afraid of speaking — you can do it! Prepare, practice, and give it a shot.