How to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking
Do you know what the number one human fear is? According to numerous studies, public speaking is more abhorrent to us than the fear of death, the fear of snakes and the fear of dentists. Perhaps that’s why many of us if asked to give a eulogy might actually prefer (temporarily) to be the person lying in the coffin.
Communicating successfully in public is a key factor in our success or failure in the workplace. Whether you find yourself addressing decision-makers at corporate headquarters or simply answering your boss’s question at a weekly staff meeting, it’s time for you to conquer your fear.
Here are 10 Tactics for Public Speaking Success
1. Practice some relaxation exercises before you begin. Take some long, deep breaths. Visualize yourself doing well while speaking as a diver visualizes his performance before diving.
2. Socialize beforehand. Introduce yourself to as many of the attendees as possible before your speech. Thank them for coming. Learn who they are and what they do. If you already know your audience, take some time to chat with colleagues. Familiarity with your listeners will help you to relax, which improves your effectiveness as a speaker.
3. Listen carefully to remember people’s names. It will increase your self-confidence, humanize your audience, and create good will. You become more personable and “one of them” when you say to a group, "Susan, what do you think?" than, "The lady in the blue suit with the big glasses has a question."
4.Develop associations when you engage in your pre-speaking networking that helps you remember people’s names. Here’s a true example. I gave a speech and afterward a woman in the audience asked for a tip about how she could remember my name – Rakow – which is pronounced Rayco. I told her to think of garden implements: a rake and a hoe. When I met her several months later, she introduced me to her friend as Dr. Garden. I learned a valuable lesson. If you are going to use mnemonics – memory techniques – to remember something, they have to be your own, not supplied by someone else.
5. Make eye contact with everyone to show confidence, courtesy and respect.
6. Smile. Smile. Smile. No matter how serious the subject matter of your presentation, a pleasant smile is an outstanding way to disarm every audience. Remember this from the moment you enter the room until you leave. You will be amazed at the difference your smile makes.
7. Be perceptive. Pay complete attention to the body language of your audience. What are they showing you? Are they attentive to your presentation? Ask questions and refer some questions to other audience members. Engage as many people as possible so that everyone feels important and significant.
8. Be creative. Take some chances. Tell personal anecdotes. Use your sense of humor. Make it fun for your audience if possible. When you laugh at yourself, you become more likable.
9. Be yourself. There is no substitute for authenticity. If a certain approach feels too forced to you, then try a different strategy that better fits your character. Follow the army’s slogan and “be the best you can be.”
10. Experience is the best teacher. Look for opportunities where you can gain experience speaking before groups – volunteer for a committee, speak at your church, coach a team, or teach a class. Join Toastmasters or other professional speaking organizations. Experience produces confidence which will help you banish your fear and ensure effective communication with any audience.
Just keep this in mind: “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” Spanish proverb.
© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. Rev. 2012. All rights reserved.
Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Readers say this book enabled them to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview professionally, and negotiate assertively. Includes a must-read chapter for older workers.