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Public Speaking Nerves - How To Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Updated on January 21, 2014
Bill Clinton 2001 Delivering the Lecture "On Globalisation"
Bill Clinton 2001 Delivering the Lecture "On Globalisation" | Source

How to Overcome Public Speaking Nerves

As the reality that it is your turn to speak to the assembled audience hits home, your heart begins to beat like you have just been chased by a mad axe man. Your body becomes stiff like a bolt. You walk to the speaker’s lectern as if to the gallows. As you take your stand and face your tormentors, your lungs decide to freeze. As you begin to speak your voice comes out stiff, shallow and quivery. Panic sets in hard leaving you hard pushed to remember your name let alone deliver a talk.

How Can You Overcome Public Speaking Nerves and Deliver your Talk with Confidence?

The following five lessons will help you overcome fear of public speaking.

Keep Your Notes Simple

Don’t write a script out. Think of your talk as a number of questions that need answering.

Write the questions down. Highlight them to make them stand out. That is the frame of your talk. Put in a few key words after the questions to jog your memory if needed.

Run through the answers to the questions until you are thoroughly familiar with them.

Don’t try to memorise your talk exactly in an effort to deliver it exactly word for word. That only creates more anxiety and pressure. What is easier to do, speaking naturally on a subject you know well or trying to remember a script of a conversation you prepared earlier.

Memorise the ideas, thoughts and key words not the exact script. If you are trying to remember a script and you lose your place it may be very hard to pick it up again.

Think About the Value of the Material Not Yourself

Concentrate on the great value of the information you are delivering and how your audience will benefit from it. This can take your mind off yourself and onto your well prepared presentation.

Don’t Panic When Your Heart Begins to Beat

Get to know how your body responds to the thought of delivering your discourse. Concentrate on your heart beat. As your appointment with the lectern grows nearer your body will secrete adrenaline into your bloodstream. This in turn causes your heart to beat faster. Be ready for that. Don’t fear that feeling. Realise that it is just a natural response and you can still deliver your talk even if your heart is beating faster. It can actually help you to have a heightened alertness and concentration. Learn to enjoy it.

Once you understand exactly what public speaking nerves are you will have a power over them, not the other way around.

Keep Yourself Calm Before You Begin

Don’t get yourself all breathless just before your talk. Keep your body as still and calm as possible and walk slowly.

Don’t think about delivering the whole talk. Just keep in mind your opening words. If you can get those right your confidence will soar and the rest will be a stroll in the park.

Take Control of the Room

Before giving your discourse it is useful to stand at the lectern to get a feel for it and the room. See if there is a clock that can be seen from the lectern. If you need to complete your talk by a certain time it can help if you visualise where the hands of the clock will be when its time to get off. This will give you a mental image of the time which can be easier than remembering a particular time in numbers.

When you take your position to speak make sure the lectern and microphone are how you want them. If you are able to adjust them do so.

Don’t rush straight into the talk. Compose yourself, smile at the audience.

Don't slouch over the microphone or lectern. Stand up straight. This will open your lungs and help you to breathe more freely. It is also a more confident stance.

A mistake many novice speakers make is to try to deliver the whole talk in one breath. As if they can take one big deep breath that will last the whole discourse.

Before speaking push the breath out of your lungs and take in a small breath. If you fill your lungs up too much you will lose your voice control.

Deliver your killer opening words then pause for them to sink in. During that pause, again breathe in and breathe out. Don’t rush. Continue with the rest of the talk when ready. Remember you are in control.

Apply all these lessons and your public speaking nerves will soon be forgotten.


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