Fear of public speaking is often reported as one of mankind’s greatest fears. It’s even sometimes categorized as a greater fear than death. Many people just do not enjoy public speaking and will not accept an offer to speak, even if it may result in advancement at work, making new friends or personal growth. It is said that at a funeral, most of us would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy. Why is it that so many of us have this irrational fear of public speaking? Is it fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of judgment by our peers, or is it just our own personal self doubt that won’t allow us to take the stage or the microphone.
In my workshops I focus on a series of strategies for gaining control of those nerves and in the speaking industry we say “making the butterflies fly in formation”. These strategies help you to PRIME yourself for public speaking
1. Preparation. You cannot over prepare. Know your audience, know your venue, and know your topic. Can you plug and play? If you time was cut in half, or there was a power failure, can you still present your topic and get your key message across. You need to be able to.
2. Relaxation. Learning some quick relaxes, deep breathing exercises, and learn how to visualize your success on stage. Some people use yoga or mediations just to get in the right frame of mind and just bring that tension and anxiety under control before being introduced to speak. What works for you? What excercise can you do that just lowers your anxiety a little. Become proficient at this excercise, so that you can call upon whenevr you need to.
3. Immersion. Immerse yourself into speaking. Having decided that you want to improve your speaking confidence and effectiveness, there is no better way to reduce anxiety than to dive in and do lots of speaking. You need to create speaking opportunities at work, such as volunteering to lead meetings, do community talks or you can also join a public speaking club such as Toastmasters. But you need to do it and lots of it.
4. Monitor and Measure. Feedback is the food of champions and you need to receive feedback so that you can monitor you progress. The ultimate feedback is to video yourself, but this is not always possible. You can have a friend or colleague in the audience who can provide you with the feedback that you want. It may relate to increasing eye contact, raising your voice more or using pauses for effect – or whatever you need to improve on. You can monitor your gestures by practicing in front of a mirror, so that you can ensure they are congruent with your message.
5. Expand your comfort zone. Once getting comfortable at staff meeting or toastmasters meetings, you need to expand your comfort zone and take on more challenging speaking situations. It is called “Pushing the envelope
These steps will help you PRIME yourself for public speaking and the fear and anxiety will slowly reduce as you realize that you are prepared and ready to go.