Beating the Fear of Public Speaking

For some people, having to speak in public is the most feared situation on earth, second only to death. Many people experience panic attacks during public speaking that make them feel like they’re actually dying. A phobia of public speaking can derail a negotiation, but it doesn’t have to. If you fear public speaking, read on. We’ve outlined some key ways to help you conquer that fear.

You’re Not Your Fear

Public speaking debilitates people because they equate it with personal self-worth. Their thought process is, “Because I can’t speak well, I don’t deserve to be considered a competent professional.” This is one of the biggest lies you can tell yourself. If your company has asked you to speak in public, it’s because they know you’re competent and intelligent. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Relax and remind yourself of your positive traits. Tell yourself, “I can do this.”

Don’t Memorize or Read off the Page

Most professionals feel pressure to memorize speeches, which compounds their nervousness. To alleviate pressure, don’t memorize every word. Instead, commit only key points to memory. On the other hand, resist the urge to read directly from notes. The audience can tell what you’re doing, and they’ll quickly get bored and won’t remember what you’ve said. Bring a few index cards or a single sheet with important notes. Glance at it as needed, but let the speech flow.

Get Personal

The best speakers tell stories rather than simply conveying information. When possible, start your speech with a relevant anecdote. This approach will help the audience warm to you. Use your sense of humor; a well-placed joke will help plant information in the audience’s head. Additionally, using the personal stories and details you know best will help you relax and have fun.

Use Support 

Like other phobias, the fear of public speaking can be intimidating when people try to deal with it alone. They won’t share their fears with family or coworkers because they think fear indicates incompetence. In reality, even your most put-together mentors have probably been where you are. Be honest about your fear and seek support. Ask trusted people to help you practice for the speech. When the big moment comes, picture the audience full of supportive, familiar faces to remind you your listeners are rooting for you. If your fear is particularly debilitating, there is no shame in seeking short-term counseling; ask human resources for recommendations.

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