When it comes to having a deathly fear or anxiety with public speaking, you are not alone. Some experts say roughly 75% of the population has some level of public speaking fear or anxiety.
And if it makes you feel any better, even some of the most accomplished speakers and leaders in history suffered from the fear of public speaking at some point in their lives.
So it’s not a matter of if you get nervous when you speak, but when you do, how will you overcome it?
Here are 16 tips that can help you overcome your public speaking fear and anxieties.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
Arguably the best way to overcome your public speaking anxiety is to practice. The age old saying, “practice makes perfect” is just as true for public speaking as anything else.
Just look at all of the best speakers, musicians, or athletes in the world. They got to where they are today because they practiced over and over again to become great at what they do.
The more you do something, the better you become at it, and the better you are, the more confident you will be.
Some ways to get started are:
1) Practice speaking in a mirror. You can watch yourself to see your different facial expressions and body movements. Best of all, you can practice anytime.
2) Record yourself speaking. While most people hate being on video and hearing their voice, this is another big step in being comfortable speaking in front of others. You can learn a lot by watching yourself on video since you will be able to watch from the audience’s perspective.
3) Practice speaking in front of others. If you have friends, family, a significant other, or just a stranger at a coffee shop that is willing to listen to you and provide feedback, take advantage of this opportunity to practice.
4) Join a speaking group. Nothing can beat practicing public speaking in front of an actual audience, even if it is virtual. Check out Speakers Anonymous public speaking community or a local Meet Up club to find practice sessions to attend.
Again the goal is practice. And better yet, practice in front of others to simulate the real deal.
2. Understand your audience and make it about them, not yourself
The more you focus on your audience and giving them amazing value, the less you think about yourself. And the less you think about yourself, the easier it is to overcome your anxiety when speaking in public.
“The more you understand what somebody wants, needs and fears, the more you can figure out how to add value. Those who know how to speak in public understand that it’s not just about them. Just as great leaders know it’s about their buyers and not about themselves, effective speakers always put their audience first. Your audience is there for a reason. When you tap into that reason, your speech will be powerful and memorable.” - Tony Robbins
3. Say yes to new opportunities
In order to overcome your fears, you have to be able to say yes to things that are out of your comfort zone.
So if that means saying yes to present your group project, or maybe joining a public speaking group, give it try. Taking that first step could end up being life changing.
No one in history has ever overcome a fear or a challenge in their life by doing nothing. You have to take action to make a difference, no matter where you are starting out.
4. Hire a public speaking coach
Hiring a coach can be one of the fastest ways to overcome your fear of public speaking. Of course that comes with a cost, as most public speaking coaches aren’t cheap.
But just like anything, a coach is going to help you reach your goals faster than you could on your own. They will hold you accountable, while giving you advice and tips they have accumulated during their years of experience.
5. Join a public speaking class
There are hundreds of public speaking courses that can help you become a better public speaker. Many of which can be taken online or in person at a local university or club.
One of the most well-known organizations is Toastmasters, where you can practice your public speaking once a week with a local group. They also have educational programs to help sharpen your skills in public speaking, communication, and leadership.
6. Visualize Success
Visualizing a successful outcome can be very helpful to both your mental and physical wellbeing when preparing for a speech.
This tactic can be attributed to the success of many of the greatest performers in the world, from actors to athletes.
By visualizing a positive outcome, you can almost trick your mind into believing you are actually performing and succeeding. So when the time comes, your brain and body will be more confident because it has been in this situation before.
“It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow—all relevant to achieving your best life!” – Angie LeVann
7. Overcome the fear of rejection
Rejection is perhaps the root of why so many people fear public speaking. Most people are fine when talking casually with a group, but as soon as the focus is shifted to just them “performing”, things change.
It’s important to remember the audience is there for a reason, to listen to what you have to say. Most of the audience wants you to succeed and is there to support you and learn from you. Those who don’t care, well, they are just going to forget what you said regardless. So their opinion shouldn’t matter anyways.
No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Which means you will too. The key is to accept it and learn from those mistakes.
So don’t put yourself on this pedestal that you have to give the perfect speech. Once you realize this, you can relieve some of the pressure to perform and focus on giving the audience exceptional information.
8. Exercise to calm your nerves
Physical activities can be helpful during the days leading up to a speaking event, and even right before you walk out on stage.
Exercise will help you reduce the stress and anxiety caused by an upcoming speech. So exercising on a regular basis can help you sleep at night, and reduce that tension you have throughout the day.
This is also useful right before you speak. Incorporate a few jumping jacks or a quick walk into your routine to help reduce those stress hormones and get your blood flowing before you go on stage.
9. Speak on topics you are passionate about
If possible, find a topic that you are passionate about. If you can do this, it will be lot easier, and more fun to do research and talk to your audience about.
The more you know about your topic, the more comfortable you will be speaking about it in front of others.
10. Be organized
Getting organized can help reduce some of the stress and anxiety that comes with clutter and uncertainty.
The last thing you need right before a speaking event is something unexpected, like lost notes or maybe you still aren’t sure what exactly you are going to say.
If you take the time to plan and organize your thoughts ahead of time, you will be much more prepared for any type of speaking engagement. And when you are prepared, you will be much less nervous and anxious about what to say or what could go wrong.
11. Dress for success
This might not be for everyone, but dressing in a way that makes you feel more confident can help.
Dressing up in nice clothes can not only change your perspective of yourself and make you feel more confident, but your appearance can also dictate how others perceive you and your credibility.
Remember, first impressions are very important. As humans, we usually develop our opinions on someone before they even say a word.
12. Control your breathing
Learn how to control your breathing. When we get excited, nervous, or stressed, we tend to move quickly and forget how to breathe.
When preparing for a speech and just before a speech, it’s important to really focus on your breathing. Take deep breathes in and out to help calm the nerves. Practice different breathing techniques and find one that helps you relax and focus. Deep breaths will help get oxygen to your brain and the rest of your body and help you relax.
You should also focus on your breathing while speaking. When you are nervous or panicked, you start to take short, quick breathes, which will prevent you from speaking with a calm, authoritative voice.
Try to slow your breathing, and take pauses both for dramatic effect, and to re-focus your breathing.
13. Focus on your talking speed
Much like controlling your breathing, you must be able to control your talking speed. As you become excited or nervous, you begin to talk faster. This will make it more difficult for people to understand what you are saying, and will also cause your breathing to speed up. Leading to additional stress and nervousness due to the increased heart rate and reduced air flow.
So focus on slowing down your speaking and taking pauses to gather your thoughts, and your breath.
14. Make eye contact while speaking
Yes, this can be awkward. But making eye contact with people will help become more connected with your audience. You don’t need to stare at someone, but just by taking a couple of seconds to make eye contact with someone while you finish a sentence can really make a big difference.
By doing this, it’ll feel more like you are having a personal one on one conversation, instead of just talking to a room a full of people and connecting with no one.
15. Don't worry about the audience reactions
When speaking in front of a crowd, try to not let their reactions affect you. Most of your audience will be there to listen and learn from you, but there will be those who are only there because they have to be there.
It’s important to ignore people who seem disinterested and not let them affect your emotions.
Go into your speech knowing that not everyone will be engaged. This way you can prepare yourself and not be caught off guard.
Nothing can throw your speech off more than the unexpected, so take this into consideration beforehand so your mind and body will know how to handle it when it happens.
16. Give yourself a pat on the back
After your speaking event is over, take some time to reflect and congratulate yourself for your accomplishment.
Let this be a reminder that you can give a successful presentation. Even if this time around might not have gone perfect, you can build off the experience for the next time.