Approximately 75% of people admit to feeling anxious prior to public speaking. We’ve got you covered.

As we all know, public speaking can be quite literally, horrifying. Sweaty palms, flushed cheeks and dreams the night before of just about everything that can go wrong, happening, rarely leaves you feeling calm and confident. The fear of public speaking is so common, it’s got its own word: Glossophobia. Approximately 75% of people admit to feeling anxious prior to public speaking.

Public speaking can be an important part of many job roles and is often a necessary skill to progress in your career. Those lucky people that are naturally confident public speakers, come few and far between. Many struggle with the entire concept. Exposing ourselves to the evaluation of an audience of peers, is not an easy task to face.

Being a strong public speaker will help you to stand out amongst your peers and show your manager that you are confident within your role. The skill to communicate your ideas in a clear, concise way and present them openly is a vital component of success in a professional career.

Are you already dreading your next presentation or the next time your boss asks you to take over at a meeting? These four tips will help you shake off that fear and conquer public speaking.

  1.        Get organised

As with most things, being prepared is only going to help you with public speaking engagements. Knowing your subject will make you feel and project confidently.

Do your research, know your stuff. Don’t start preparation the night before.

Know your audience. If you’re speaking at an event or conference, ask the organiser for a delegate list in advance so you know who you’re talking to. Choose points from your presentation to focus on that will engage the audience in the room and skim over things that you know will be of lesser interest. Welcome questions  at the end.

This also goes for your materials. If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, make sure your slides are clear, simple and don’t distract the audience from what you’re saying. Use text sparingly and images liberally. Make sure your slides flow with clear beginning, middle and end.

When attending professional development events or dialling into webinars, think about what you like or dislike about speaker presentations and styles. Use this to develop your own.

  1.        Concentrate on yourself, not the audience

As much as you need to engage with the audience, don’t let their reactions put you off mid-presentation. Once you’re up there speaking, use the tools you came with and don’t let anything distract you. If you see someone in the crowd yawning, it may not be because you’re boring, but because they’re itching for their second coffee. Someone checking their phone? Don’t assume you’re unengaging - their grandmother could be in hospital.

Don’t let spur of the moment audience reactions put you off. Focus on what you’re doing, the preparation you’ve done & what you’re saying. Once you’re up there, own it!

  1.        Change your thinking

When we’re afraid of things, we tend to avoid them as much as possible. This is a normal human reaction. However, if you know public speaking is a skill you need in your repertoire, turn your thinking around.

Instead of seeing it as something scary, see it as an opportunity. Every time you speak in public, you will feel more comfortable doing so. Think of it as a chance to improve on a skill that you’re lacking in, not a scary task that should be avoided.

  1.        Practice

As with most things in life, yoga, baking the perfect banana bread, playing an instrument or balancing a worksheet, practice makes perfect. This applies to public speaking in two ways.

Practicing a presentation prior to giving it will help you become confident in what you’re saying and avoid any risk of getting tongue tied. Practice in front of the mirror, to a friendly colleague, parent or friend. Let your significant other know that when you get home you’ll need some of their time to impart some wisdom. This will only work for planned speaking engagements, but is an absolute must when preparing.

Secondly, practice public speaking in general. Take every opportunity you get. Only doing it when absolutely vital, will slow down your chance for improvement. Set yourself a goal. Start small – 1 public speaking engagement per month to your immediate team meeting? Practicing speaking in front of people, however big or small your audience is, will help you to conquer your fear.

Face your fears! Do what scares you, until it doesn’t. You can do it!

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