Communication skills

Overcoming the fear of public speaking

- February 1, 2010 2 MIN READ

Butterflies, pounding heart, sweaty palms, shaky knees. Sound familiar? These are symptoms of stage fright, and you can overcome them. This article looks at overcoming the fear of public speaking.

If you know your speaking topic yet the thought of having to present terrifies you, this article is for you.

Firstly, recognise that you may feel your nervousness prior to giving a presentation, but most people in the audience would be totally unaware of it.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s common for the thought of presenting to be worse than actually getting up to do it.

Delivering effective presentations is an important business skill, so here are seven tips to help you with overcoming your fear of public speaking.

1. Follow the 5Ps: Prior preparation prevents poor performance

The better prepared you are with your presentation the more confident you’ll be in presenting.

2. Visualise and practise

Visualise yourself giving the presentation – how you’ll sound, feel and look when presenting well. That way you can prepare yourself both mentally and physically by thinking about what you’ll do and when, including when you’ll use any visual aids.

You can even visualise the worst-case scenario and work out strategies beforehand on how to deal with them. In the unlikely event they occur, these situations won’t be as daunting because you’ve already dealt with them in your mind.

Practise the presentation, including any visual aids, so that you become comfortable with the material. The more you practise the more confident you’ll feel on the day.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  presentation skills section.

3. Know the room

If you can, ensure that you become familiar with the room in which you’ll be presenting prior to the presentation.

Meet and greet the members of your audience – this helps to build your connection between with them.

4. Stay hydrated

Drink water or a warm drink. Avoid iced water as it can affect the pitch of your voice when speaking.

5. Stand tall

The way you present yourself physically will have an impact on both your audience and yourself.

No slouching! Look up and maintain eye contact with members of your audience.

A confident stance will help you feel more confident, too. It’s all about faking it til you make it, and basically tricking your brain into thinking that you’re confident so you start to feel more confident.

6. Keep your focus outward rather than inward

Focus on your audience rather than on how you’re feeling. They want you to be interesting and informative. They actually want you to succeed. Engage them during the presentation. This can also take the focus off you.

7. Breathe

Quite often when we’re nervous we tend to shallow breathe. Take some slow, deep breaths just before presenting. This helps to release tension in your muscles and encourages the butterflies you can feel in your stomach to fly in formation.

Fear is nervous energy. Use those nerves to energise you. I love the acronym that I once heard for FEAR: Feeling, Excited And Ready!

What strategies can you share for overcoming the fear of public speaking?