How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

The fear of public speaking ranks as most people's biggest fear. It even ranks higher than death for MANY people. 

“A recent survey stated that the average person's greatest fear is having to give a speech in public. Somehow this ranked even higher than death which was third on the list. So, you're telling me that at a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give a eulogy.” ― Jerry Seinfield

Many of us choose career paths that do not require getting in front of the room or a camera, but as a business owner, you can't avoid being in front of the stage! As your brand's voice, you must use your voice to share your message, attract clients to your business, and showcase your unique talents! We know this is not easy. For many, the fear of public speaking is so great that it impedes their ability to take their business to the next level.

None of us would choose death, as the famous comedian joked, so let's work together to develop a strategy to overcome it. This approach IS working for me, and I know it can help elevate YOU and YOUR BUSINESS, too!  

How to conquer this crazy, ridiculous fear - ONCE AND FOR ALL ...

Take tiny steps. Before making progress on my fear of public speaking, I would punt every speaking opportunity to my business partner, Janet, who is not afraid of the camera or sharing her voice with anyone. I typically do better with speaking one-on-one to people and talking in smaller groups. I got away with this for so long because I would find other outlets that kept me in my comfort zone, like being interviewed for an article or a talk radio show, which let me think I was putting myself out there. Eventually, I realized that if we were going to reach a larger audience and move our consulting business online that I could no longer avoid my fear of public speaking.

The first thing I did when I came to this realization (that I already knew), I read a gazillion blogs on public speaking, flooded my Amazon account with books on the topic, and started binging TED Talks. Did this help? NOT REALLY. This exercise is comparable to my son, arguing that he will get better at basketball by watching his favorite NBA players on television. It wasn't until I started practicing did I see results.  

Record your voice. Then, listen to what you say and how you say it. The transformation began for me when I started recording and listening to myself. I'd talk ... and talk ... and talk.  You can do this in the car or while getting ready for work in the morning. Record yourself on video as well, so you can evaluate your speech and mannerisms.

After just a few weeks of this self-practicing, I noticed a change in my confidence. There was no actual audience, but I discovered what I liked about my voice, what I didn't like about it, the ideal volume and tone, and what I needed to change about my delivery.

Initially, I tried to plan out what I wanted to say, but this created a roadblock because it didn't help me overcome the fear. I changed my approach to recording just what happened to be on my mind. The topic was specific, but I chose easy topics, such as how to get my 15-year old to make his bed to what I would change about my day if I can start my day over. By making it less about what I was going to say made, I established a rhythm, and things began to flow. This practice has helped eliminate the "Ums" and "You Knows" that we catch ourselves saying when we are nervous!

The most powerful recording, the one that changed my outlook on public speaking, was when I tackled the subject of what I am doing to overcome my fear of public speaking, and it's what I am sharing with you now.

Listening and recording my voice, with no audience, continues to be more effective than presenting to friends and family. Avoid being your worst critique. With the right mindset, you will gain and improve through this exercise of self-reflection.

"We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience. ― John Dewey

Continue to practice, and you will notice progress. As your confidence builds and your content improves, share your "performance" with your friends and family! Practicing in front of a small group of friends and family, it can help you build the confidence you need to speak in front of larger groups. This will truly ELEVATE your game!

Collaborate with your partners and clients. When it comes to public speaking, you do not have to do it alone. Sometimes the best way for fearful public speakers to gain experience with speaking in front of an audience, whether in person or online, is by sharing the stage. Seek opportunities to present with other experts.

Conduct a webinar with a non-competing business with a similar audience, who can prepare and present with you. Bring a client on your Facebook Live who can talk about their experience working with you. Client testimonials are a great way to gain loyalty, trust, credibility, and more referrals. When you DELEGATE to others, it takes the stress off you. 

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Are you afraid you will forget what you want to say and that you will embarrass yourself and your brand? Ensure this does not happen by being prepared.

  • Before your speech or presentation, organize all of the information you want to cover. Consider using visual aids to support your presentation, such as pictures or slides. If collaborating with others, establish an outline or Q&A to follow with the person collaborating with you. 
  • If technology is involved in your presentation, make sure that everything is working correctly before you go LIVE.
  • Know your time frame. Ensure that the content you want to cover is neither too long nor too short for the allotted time. The depth of your content on a 3-minute appearance on television will be a lot less than what you will cover in a 30-minute segment.
  • Be sure to leave time for Q&A, and always have a few added thoughts you could share in case you finish early. 
  • Be familiar with your listeners. Speaking at an industry conference to other experts, talking to your clients, and engaging people who are new to your brand are three different audiences. Be relevant and relatable so that what you have to say is valued to your audience.
  • Every good performance has a dress rehearsal. Rehearsing brings clarity to what you will talk about and ensures that you won't forget any crucial points. This warmup will give you the confidence that you need to win over your audience! 

Avoid memorizing your speech. While you will want to prepare and rehearse your speech, try to avoid memorizing your speech word for word. Avoiding this common mistake takes the pressure off and eliminates the chance of error. Remember, you are an expert, valued your knowledge. Just be your authentic, assertive self, and people will appreciate what they learn from you.

Visualize yourself being successful when you give your presentation. The human brain does not know the difference between reality and imagination. Spend time visualizing a successful representation, and you will shine when the moment comes.

Be prepared mentally and physically before giving your presentation. Get a good night's sleep before a presentation. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes the morning of your presentation. Breathing exercises are an effective way to cope with fear. In the minutes leading up to your presentation, take a slow, deep breath through your nose and hold it. Then, release it slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process until your heart rate decreases, and you feel calm.

Evaluate your performance.  You will not get better at public speaking unless you do it, and you cannot expect every opportunity to go without a hitch. Why, if public speaking were simple, it wouldn't rank as many people's #1 fear. Learn from your performance. Event hosts usually have attendees complete surveys rating the speakers. Find out how you did by asking for this feedback. You should also speak to the host to find out what they thought about your performance. Likes and Comments reveal whether you are reaching and engaging your online audience. Listen to people's responses and adopt the advice they are giving you. 

Many people try to deal with their fear of public speaking by avoiding it altogether, but this is an impractical solution for you. Once you adopt this system, you can REPLICATE over and over!  

The only way to truly get past your fear of public speaking is to try it. Start practicing now. It gets easier every time! I promise!


Authored by Angela Rice, Co-Founder of Centered CEOs, LLC 


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