In my last article I spoke about the reasons why a lot of people are afraid of public speaking. I thought it was important to get to the bottom of the anxiety around speaking and why it is so challenging for many. In this piece I want to offer some suggestions as to how one can overcome such fears.
Understand your why
People are asked to speak in public because they have great stories to tell, great data to share and in many cases inspire others to do the same. When you realise that the knowledge you bring can help others, this service can go a long way in helping you to overcome your fear
Practice Practice Practice
It’s not just speaking in front of a big audience, but also interviews, networking, sales pitches and in meetings that all require good public speaking skills. The thing is even the best speakers in the world require good practice and honing of their skills. It’s not about winging it but good preparation and like any other professional skill you get better and challenge any fears through deliberate practice.
When you are practicing it is good to do it on your own, but also try doing it in front of peers. Go to public speaking workshops or (one of my favourites) go and try out storytelling nights.
Which leads to my next point.
As part of a good practice process is being able to shape the kind of feedback you get from your presentation. Get those who you trust and whose opinion you value to tell you what you did well, how you can improve and what stands out for them.
When I first work with clients and tell them to record themselves on video the initial response is “hell no”. The thing is though when you have recorded content you get to see your body language, hear your tone and even if you don’t like what you see it is a starting point. You come to realise it’s not that bad.
Get a coach
OK I know I am a coach and would include this but it is essential when dealing with fears. A good presentations coach can walk through the mechanics of public speaking but can also help you to challenge the inner talk that make you fearful.
Focus on breathing
When we talked about sweaty palms, strained voices and shaky bodies in the last piece, what I didn’t mention is how closely they are related to our breathing patterns. When you are focused on your breathing it helps to get you into a rhythm, a rhythm that can help to reduce anxiety.
The last point I want to address is that speaking can be fun. It doesn’t have to be so serious and overwhelming, unless you are doing a eulogy.
Play with your speaking.
Try injecting a little humour. (When I say humour I am not talking about trying to be a comedian)
Think about the fact that when you are on the mic you own the stage.