Networking Tips


7 Ways to Conquer Your Fears of Public Speaking

By: Eden Creamer-Hurdle
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    Networking Tips

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    Eden Creamer-Hurdle

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Ask someone their greatest fear, and there is a pretty likely chance you’ll get one of three answers: heights, enclosed spaces, public speaking.

While you can avoid climbing to the top of a lighthouse or jumping into a crowded room, for so many business professionals avoiding public speaking and still finding the success in business that they long for can be nearly impossible. Sometimes, you have to face your fears head on to get where you want to go. Check out these 7 tips to overcome your fear of public speaking.

  1. Volunteer to speak. While this may sound counter-intuitive, volunteering to speak can help eliminate nerves in a number of ways. When you put yourself in the position of presenting, you take out the feelings of dread and put the power in your hands. You asked to do this to improve your skills, you took the initiative, you can do this. Volunteering to speak also gives you more opportunities to practice public speaking, which in turn can help you feel more natural with all eyes on you.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. You never want to get up in front of a crowd without having rehearsed what you are going to say.  Write out your key points, bring notes to help back you up if you forget something, and relax. There’s no such thing as over preparing here.
  3. Focus on what you’re saying, not what the audience is doing. Ignoring audience reactions can be vital to someone who has social anxiety. Phones and social media will undoubtedly pull the attention of someone in your audience, late nights the night before will make someone yawn, and nature will call someone out of the room while you present. It is inevitable, and you can’t let these distractions get in your head. It might sound corny, but it’s not you, it’s them.
  4. Have water handy. Sometimes nerves can dry out your mouth and throat, leaving you feeling like you’re squeaking through your presentation. Bring water to help quench any pre-or-during presentation thirst, and avoid sugary drinks as they can have the adverse effect.
  5. Don’t forget to breathe. Have you ever worked out with a trainer, and as you’re lifting weights they remind you to steady your breathing to make sure you don’t pass out? The same thing applies to public speaking. Don’t forget to breathe, or you might have bigger problems than being worried about public speaking.
  6. Get personal. Effective presentations often have the presenter connecting the material to something in their life that other people can relate to. Doing this can often get the attention off you and your nerves, and onto your topic by engaging them. It also helps you loosen up – sharing how your toddler helped you learn multi-tasking better than any seminar you’ve ever attended (and here’s how) is surely going to have you more at ease than just talking about multi-tasking.
  7. Make the beginning and the end of your presentation stand out. As the presenter, your first instinct is to obsess over every second that all eyes will be on you. In reality, many people in the audience will truly remember the very beginning and the very end of your presentation, with only vague recollections of the points in the middle (few of those points being how you presented).

How do you handle stage fright? Join in the conversation on Facebook!