Studies show that speaking in front of others is rated as a top fear. For many people it ranks alongside fears of illness, flying, heights, terrorism and even death. Yet we all have to do it sometime, whether we’re delivering a toast at a party or simply presenting information at work.
I believe everyone can achieve ease and comfort when speaking publicly, but you must be willing to forget about a few of the things you’ve been taught along the way. Much of the training for public speaking focuses on the content, memorization and getting it right. That is a very old paradigm. And it also puts all the pressure on the speaker.
If you have been hiding behind power point presentations, heaps of data and copious memorization, you may find my approach a bit unusual. I have created dynamic results with thousands of uncomfortable speakers around the world by empowering them with skills to be present, vulnerable and to trust themselves while speaking.
These are my seven best tips to conquer you fear of public speaking.
Let down your barriers: We think we have to protect ourselves in front of people so we often erect walls around ourselves. Vulnerability and authenticity are actually two of the most seductive and captivating characteristics in a public speaker. Before you speak, take a couple of deep breaths and intentionally push down anything that makes you want to protect or defend yourself. It’s a little uncomfortable at first, but the difference it makes is dramatic.
Focus on putting your audience at ease: When a speaker is uncomfortable, how uncomfortable does the audience become? What if you turned the tables saying “Hey, I’ve got this covered. You can relax!” You will be amazed how much your body will relax when you are not focused on the speech being all about you.
Ask: Is this fear or excitement?: It’s so easy to assume that we are afraid of things that are actually quite exciting. Butterflies are not necessarily a bad thing on stage. They only get in the way when you are sure you are afraid. We all hear amazing stories of little old ladies lifting cars when they have adrenaline coursing through their veins. Learn to use this adrenaline and excitement to your advantage.
Pull your audience to you instead of pushing them away: Much of speaking and performance training focuses on the energy going from the speaker to the audience to convey the message. This often leads to what we call “pushing”. Try flipping this flow so that you are pulling the audience to you. You’ll see your audience relax and often even begin to lean in toward you.
Don’t over prepare: It’s great to have an idea of what you will be talking about, but over preparation can actually create separation with your audience. For the most heartfelt and memorable speech, you want to be present with the people in the room and say what comes to you in the moment.
Don’t judge your performance during the applause: When people are clapping for you, it’s easy to want to wave them off or divert your eyes down, especially if you don’t think you did you best. Resist this urge. Take this moment instead to be grateful for the audience listening to you. If you stay in this grateful and confident energy at the end, people will actually remember your speech as much better than if you start judging yourself.
Stop believing you are what you’ve been telling yourself: If you say “I’m shy” over and over you will not only believe it, you will become it. What if you looked at all the fixed things you have been telling yourself as just an interesting point of view? What if you don’t have to be all those things? What if you are actually choosing to be them over and over? What else could you choose?