Fear of public speaking is ranked higher than death in many surveys. For many people, just thinking about speaking in front of a group causes them to break out in a sweat, feel symptoms of an anxiety attack coming on or appear like they have seen a ghost; they become paralyzed by fear. Don’t be afraid of public speaking, even if you haven’t had the best experiences in the past. It takes some practice and a change in thinking patterns to really feel confident and comfortable speaking in public.
I recently have been on live TV for some mental health related topics. As exciting as it is, the fear of messing up, with no re-do’s, is pretty anxiety producing. Even as an expert, I can feel fear stricken at times. You may feel anxious about raising your hand in a meeting or discussion, when you have to give a toast at a friend’s wedding, or or when you give an announcement at church or maybe even present at a conference. Whatever the situation here are some ways to get to a confident state of mind when speaking in public.
5 Tips for Public Speaking Confidence
- Define your purpose. You’re not just giving a presentation to your class or coworkers, you are doing something more. Even if it’s on a topic you don’t feel super passionate about, you are educating, informing, or making a point about something that others can benefit from. Even raising your hand to ask a question has a purpose. You are letting the speaker or teacher know you’re not quite following (which makes them slow down) and you’re helping others who likely have the same question. Reframe it in your mind to to be “I am providing a service to others when I do speak up.” Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
- Say, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Seriously, you mess up, say “um” and “like” too much or forget the whole thing? You are human, and other humans have empathy for mistakes. If you are speaking in front of people you can calmly say, “excuse me, let me start again.” Or admit you are a bit nervous and say, “Sorry about that, clearly I need to reset. Give me one second.” Then take a breath and begin again. Most people won’t forget the mess up, they are more concerned with the take home message.
- Relax your body and mind before saying a word. Before going on, get grounded and notice you are in your body and not your nervous mind. The more oxygen heading to your brain the better, it helps you feel calm and at ease when speaking/recalling information. Instead of anxiously going over your notes, just take a few deep breaths. I get grounded by noticing where my feet are on the ground and how my hands are connected to the table or podium, and I carry a crystal in my hand. It may sound silly but having something from earth in my hand helps me to distract from my worries and focus on the stone (I always have one in my hand or lap when I’m on TV too.).
- Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking with your voice loud, clear, and confident. People are nodding their heads, smiling, and agreeing with you. You feel at ease as you finish and you visualize the audience clapping. As you visualize yourself walking off stage, you feel confident and proud. Do this before you even step on stage or while you are practicing your material, it will boost your confidence.
- Appear friendly. Smile, look at a few people in the eye and introduce yourself by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile, and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
Remind yourself that those who are listening don’t want to see you feel nervous they are all secretly cheering you on. Get in your confident mindset and start speaking up more, it lessens the fear. Practice in your classroom, an office meeting, or toast at an event. Keep pushing yourself because others want to hear you, even if you fearful mind tries to tell you otherwise.
Take good care.
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.