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Nov 16

7 Tips for Conquering Public Speaking Fear

We’ve all heard about how people’s number fear is public speaking. The comedian Jerry Seinfeld had this to say on the fear of public speaking:

“The number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Number two. That means most people would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy”.

Although the line is funny,  to me it just doesn’t seem right. People’s number one fear is still public speaking.

So I decided to come up with a few tips that might help people conquer the public speaking fear. Here’s my Top 7 Tips that I’ve put together in order to help reduce that top spot ranking:

1) Know you subject. If you’re doing public speaking (whether it’s a presentation or a talk) and it’s at work you already know the subject. That means you’ll know what you have to say. You’re ahead of the game. Just make sure you know how long you’re expected to talk for.

It might also be useful to get clear about what the point or objective of your speech is.  Is it to gain new clients. To inform your department about what you’re team has achieved in the last quarter? This will really help you when it comes to…

2) Structuring. Just like a story your speech needs a beginning, a middle and an end. If it will help you can use the tell ’em format:

“tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em
tell ’em
tell ’em what you told ’em”.

Try not to digress from your speech too much. Only tell people the things that are relevant to the aim of your talk (as discussed in the previous tip).

3) Practice. Make sure you know what you’re going to say when you do your public speaking. You don’t have to worry about it being word for word, in fact it’s probably best if it isn’t that way.

Have your main speech points written out, and talk them through out loud. Practicing out loud is very important as you get used to saying the words and hearing yourself speak.

Get yourself along to your local Toastmasters club. They’re a public speaking organisation that I’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog. They can offer friendly and invaluable feedback on what you’re doing. You never know you might end up enjoying the experience and becoming a member! (check out the link at the bottom)

4) Breathe. Sounds obvious, but remember to breath before you do your speech. Try to take some slow deep breaths down in your stomach. When we get nervous or anxious we tend to breath shallow breaths in our chests. Breathing slowly will help to calm your public speaking nerves.

5) Cue Cards. If you’re reading your speech off cue cards or a presentation of some sort, then make sure you’re familiar with it enough to look up and engage your audience. There’s nothing worse than watching a speaker with his head buried in his notes delivering his speech to the floor. Glance up and take in the whole room.

If your notes are printed out hard copy and you’re concerned that they may shake put them somewhere where you can easily access them. Like on a lectern. (Beware of open windows!)

6) Your listeners. Remember that everyone in the room is there wanting you to succeed. No-one wants you to fail. This isn’t a 1AM show at The Comedy Store, it’s public speaking.

People have come to hear what you have to say. If you have an opportunity to chat to some of them before-hand you’ll realise that they are just people and not a baying mob.

7) Humour. If you’re not naturally humorous or good with a joke, then leave this section well alone. The last thing you need is a groan at a joke delivered badly. It could knock your confidence. If you’re not too good with humour, don’t worry as you’re in good company. Speakers like Tony Robbins don’t use humour, but he is no less engaging.

However, if humour is your strong point then go ahead and sprinkle a couple of anecdotes into your speech. Don’t go for laughs every minute, you’re not a comedian so why pressure yourself.

But having the odd laugh here and there can make people more interested in what you have to say. Humour can make parts of your speech easier to understand. It can become, as Mary Poppins might say, a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.