How To Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

A fear of public speaking is completely normal. In fact, the number one fear in America is public speaking. A famous Seinfeld quote said, “Surveys show that the number one fear of Americans is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. That means that at a funeral, the average American would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” But just like any fear, it can be conquered. To help you accomplish this, I’ve compiled four tips that will show you how to overcome your fear of public speaking.

Know Why You Need To Conquer Your Fear

First of all, you should understand why you must overcome your fear of public speaking. Being aware of the benefits will not only help you at work, but also anywhere else in life. Job interviews, working in teams, discussions with strangers, even your love life will improve as your public speaking does. The skills you acquire from becoming a good public speaker have applications in almost all other areas of your life. Some of these benefits are:

Confidence – By learning to speak in front of groups of people and refining your craft each time, you will build a sense of accomplishment in yourself. Knowing that people enjoy listening to what you have to say creates a positive mindset and healthy self-esteem.

Mental Sharpness – Whether you lost a note card, or you’re responding to an audience member’s question or comment, improvisation will at some point play a role in your public speaking. Knowing you can think quickly on your feet and learning to reach into your knowledge to develop articulate answers on the spot will make you appear more intelligent.

Fail

This is not the usual tip you would receive from an article like this, but failure is one of the best ways to learn. Michael Jordan said, “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot… and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why…I succeed.” Without trying you’ll never learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s not how good or bad your speech is the first few times you get up there, the point is you’re speaking.

Know Your Topic Well

You can reduce much fear by simply putting in the time to know your topic inside out. Doing extensive research will increase your confidence on the subject matter. And don’t stop there. Discuss your speech with friends in daily conversations or with your family at the dinner table. Preparation is a powerful tool.

Practice Leads to Excellence

I know you’ve heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect,” a million times before, but that’s because it’s true. There is no doubt that the more you speak, the less reservations you will have about it. While practicing your speech to yourself is good, practicing in front of others is better. Ask people you trust if you can deliver your speech to them. It allows for a comfortable practice setting and hopefully receiving constructive criticism will improve your speech.

Find time to join a Toastmasters group. They are a public speaking club who get together to improve one anothers speaking. They have chapters all around the country and even have clubs at many universities. They typically meet once a week and are a great way to get the practice you are in need of.

Relax

Tension can produce negative physiological effects, and will occur the most right before your speech. These effects can vary from increased heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, blushing, sweating, and upset stomach. These effects are normal, but can be reduced. Here are some helpful techniques to dealing with these tensions:

Deep Breathing – Taking deep breaths is a great way to relax right before you go on. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and count to ten.

Yoga – Practicing yoga can relieve a lot of the stress you may have about giving your speech. Yoga focuses on breathing, and the calm nature of the practice allows you to clear your mind or think rationally about your coming speech.

Meditation – If you don’t have the patience, learn it. Find yourself a quite environment and focus on your breathing until you have completely silenced your mind. It is a great escape from the stresses of your speech without actually having to go anywhere.

While the effects may seem to have a negative outcome, a smart speaker would use them to their advantage. For example, when you notice you have an increased heart rate, focus that on increasing the projection of your voice. It is mind over matter.

Eliminate Negative Thoughts

The power of positive thinking has been praised countless times. The law of attraction also states that success comes to those who actually believe in their heart they are going to be successful. Basically, once you’ve even entertained the idea of failure, you have failed. It is metaphysical, but still relevant. What you think is what you attract, and ultimately what you end up with. Recognize the negative thoughts when you have them and replace them with positive thoughts instead. For example, when you become stressed that you’ll forget your speech, tell yourself, “I have practiced this several times and know it well.”

Don’t Compare Yourself With Others

You will never be satisfied if you compare your speaking ability to someone else. Some of us have lower or higher pitched voices. Some of us like podiums, some like to walk. Each person brings their own unique style and that is what makes you who you are. Learn from others but put your own twist on things. Forcing someone else’s speaking style on your own will only make yours feel awkward and forced.

Celebrate Success

If you deliver an exceptional speech, reward yourself. Grab your friends and reinforce the positive feelings you have. It is important to remember what success feels like. It will make you want to speak over and over again.

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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2 Comments

  1. For the most part, you had excellent points, yet I differ on a couple of statements. Practice does not make perfect. Even the best speakers aren’t perfect; however they strive for excellence. No speaker will be perfect; however, practice will allow us to reach an level of excellence which we would not have if we didn’t practice. You discussed “Eliminate Negative Thoughts,” yet in your discussion “Don’t Compare Yourself With Others,” you said “Everyone knows you are not Barack Obama.” I believe I understand what you were attempting to say, yet the actual statement is a limiting, if not a negative statement. The Law of Attraction will set in the minds of the reader of this blog, a negative thought of “I am not as good as Barack Obama.” Personally, that would lower my expectation because I don’t consider Obama a good speaker. He is an excellent Teleprompter reader, and on occasion he does well in townhouse format, but overall he’s not all that great. Much better examples would be John Maxell, the late Jim Rohn, perhaps Ronald Reagan, JFK and Bill Clinton; however, I have never understood how anyone could consider Obama as a quality speaker.

    • Hey Frank. I though you made some good points. I made a few changes to the article. Since a political figure can be so divisive, I decided not to use any on this page. Thanks for the thorough read and suggestions!

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