OK, the worst has happened.
You’ve been asked to speak in public.
It may be a small talk at the office or it could be in front of a group of clients. It doesn’t matter because your public speaking phobia has decided to take control and turn you into a quivering wreck, looking for any half believable excuse to not do it.
But, try as you might, you can’t get out of this one.
So how can you face your fear of public speaking and come out alive?
1. Don’t panic about your audience. They’ll all be extremely glad that it’s not them in the spotlight. They are also unlikely to be hanging on your every word (sorry to disappoint you).
2. Practice. Read your speech or presentation out loud. Facing a mirror if you can so that you’ve got an audience of one. Your practice will do several things: it will show you where you stumble so you can re-write that part; it will help you with timing your speech; it will get you used to hearing your own voice out loud.
3. Welcome the nerves. Yes, you’ll get nerves. Even many of our top performers admit to getting frightened and worried before every single performance. The nerves will help you to focus. So long as they haven’t turned you into a gibbering wreck of course.
4. Use Powerpoint slides sparingly. But don’t just repeat everything on them. Especially not in monotone. Your audience can read, so you can use the slides as a memory aid for yourself and to allow yourself to expand on the different points.
5. Unless you’re a stand-up comedian, forget about jokes.
6. Be yourself. It’s likely some of your audience will know you anyway. Keep your speech informative but don’t worry about pleasing your high school English teacher.
7. Don’t mumble. Pacing is important, which is why reading your speech or presentation out loud is a very good idea. You need to speak fast enough to be interesting but not so fast that you sound like the whole thing is a race that you want to be over in record time.
8. Don’t criticize yourself while you’re speaking. Correct yourself if you make a mistake, sure, but don’t let that nasty little voice in the back of your head get the better of you. You’re speaking live, so you can’t edit things out that didn’t work. Just go with it and learn from any mistakes the next time you’re called on to speak.
9. Get help. Join a local club or Toastmasters. Or use a hypnosis track to help get your mind in the right place.