5 tips for conquering your public speaking nightmare
by Catherine Welborn
Halloween is right around the corner, but if you are like many people, ghosts and witches don’t scare you nearly as much as public speaking!
Specific public-speaking fears run the gamut. According to last month’s poll in which we asked about your biggest public speaking nightmare, most of our readers’ worst fear is forgetting what they are going to say next. A whopping 53% of you worry about that.
At 20%, the next biggest fear was stuttering or using too many filler words. Thirteen percent of you worry about making a mistake or saying the wrong thing. Only a few of you fear failing technical systems or visible sweat.
Conquer your fears with these tips:
- Redefine “success.” If your definition of a successful speech is one in which you don’t make a single mistake, then you are giving yourself unnecessary anxiety. Remember: The audience won’t notice or remember most mistakes. Don’t waste energy analyzing every tiny error and pause. You’ll only fuel your fear. Instead, consider a speech a success if you get your message across. That’s what you’re there to do.
- Don’t over prepare. Practice is important, and we would never suggest you attempt to “wing it.” However, don’t spend tens of hours reviewing your notes, attempting to memorize your presentation word-for-word or generally obsessing over it. That kind of preparation will drive you crazy and won’t make your speech any better. Know your subject backward and forward, but don’t waste energy trying to know your speech that well.
- Slow down. If you are afraid of stuttering or uttering too many filler words, speak more slowly. Don’t be afraid to pause momentarily as you gather your thoughts. Not only will you avoid the errors that haunt you, but your audience will also appreciate your pace.
- Save yourself with humility. Even expert speakers occasionally make mistakes and say the wrong thing. It’s not a big deal unless you make it one. If you get a couple of statistics backward and realize it later, point out your mistake. Don’t try to hide the error or deny it. Your audience will appreciate your candor. In some situations making a joke about your error will allow you and the audience to move past it.
- Pack a “no fear” bag. Bring a safety net with you. If you are worried about sweat, bring an extra undershirt and shirt to change into if you start perspiring before you go on stage. Packing deodorant to apply immediately before your presentation won’t hurt either. If you’re concerned about technical failures, bring a copy of your presentation on a flash drive and make photocopies of important visuals. If you have general speaking anxiety, consider aromatherapy or a flower essence with calming ingredients. Imagine your worst-case scenario, and bring anything you’d need to triumph over it. Chances are you’ll never even open your “no fear” bag, but having it available will reduce your stress.
This multimedia product includes a 15-minute video that demonstrates techniques for reducing your public-speaking fear. It teaches you how to control your anxiety and overcome the top challenges you face when presenting to a group. Learn how to:
- Recover when you go blank.
- Take precautions to reduce anxiety-induced sweating.
- Respond when audience members point out your mistakes.
- Slow down so people can understand you.
- Deal with technical difficulties.
- And so much more!
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Delivered each month, American Speaker Forum offers you public-speaking advice and tips for wowing your audience during your next presentation. This resource also offers you a way to ask for feedback on your next speaking engagement and to share your own experience with your colleagues.