Public speaking is considered one of the most frightening activity by a majority of people. In fact, according to Westside Toastmasters, giving an oral presentation to a group is the number one fear of the Americans, even before death, which is at number five!
That goes on to show how much public speaking is disliked among the people.
It also reveals another important fact-most people absolutely suck at public speaking. And if you are reading this article, there is a 90 percent chance that you are one of them.
But why do people are so afraid of speaking to an audience? After all, what is so frightening about holding a microphone or standing at a podium and opening your mouth?
Psychological studies reveal that it is not the act of standing in front of an audience that is frightening, rather the judgments, criticisms and corrections you expose yourself to which creates fear in the mind of so many people.
It is the reception of your words that is more terrifying than giving the oral presentation itself.
[Fun Fact: Fear of public speaking is called ‘Glossophobia.]
“Would my speech be good enough?”
“What if I forget an important part?”
“What if the audience laugh at me?”
Those are some of the concerns which run through the mind of an incompetent speaker.
These thoughts are the direct result of the lack of knowledge and experience in public speaking.
Below are the three steps you can follow that will help you get over glossophobia once and for all.
The first step is to always prepare before speaking in front of an audience.
Preparation is the the most important key to good public speaking when you are just starting out.
Experienced orators can just get up on stage and speak impromptu. You will reach that stage once you have gained enough experience and confidence. Initially though, you have to master the basics, which begins with writing down what you are going to speak.
Standing on the stage before an audience is frightening enough in itself, and you don’t want to be adding fuel to the fire by fretting over what to say next.
When you prepare your speech thoroughly in advance, you would not be grasping for straws. You would have an idea of what you should say next, and then next, and the word after that. This will bring some confidence in yourself.
Therefore, it is essential that you first write down what you will speak, how your oration will flow and how you would conclude.
Research away and write your speech as best as you can. Exploit your potential and every other resource you can get your hands on, and get writing.
The second step after you have written down your speech, is practicing- alone.
In your room, act like you are standing before a massive audience and deliver what you have written. This will help you determine what you have written actually sounds like.
This will also pin point any inconsistency, or flow-breaks that you may have not noticed while penning your speech.
It is also preferred to rehearse in front of a full body mirror. That way not only will you be rehearsing the speech you have written down, but also supervising your para-linguistics (body language) which may become odd because of nervousness you feel.
I had the bad habit of clicking my fingers while on stage when I was a novice speaker. It looked perfectly fine to me, but had a horrible impression on the audience.
Then I got serious and decided to discard away that habit, and I did.
When you are done practicing alone, get a friend of yours or two, and rehearse in front of them. Ask them to judge you hard and tell your weak points. Tell them to be as frank as they could be.
Audience pick up on things that don’t register into the speakers consciousness. You will have the benefit of knowing those quirks before hand and correcting them.
The final step is to actually get up on stage and deliver the speech in front of the audience. Writing and rehearsing won’t do jack until you step on the stage and express it in front of a hundred or so people.
The first hundred or even couple of hundred deliveries may not be Abraham Lincoln speech. That’s not the point at all. The focus should be on doing it, and improving upon it so that you get rid of the anxiety you feel while on stage.
It is like getting over any other phobia-you must constantly expose yourself to the situation that instill apprehension in you, in this case piercing judgmental eyes of the audience.
When you deliver the speech, part of the fear goes away as you realize its not the end of the world.
Even if you weren’t able to deliver a speech successfully and ended up abruptly in the middle, you are still ahead in the game. You are doing it.
And telling you from my personal experience, audience never make fun of a person who forgets the speech on stage.
They appreciate the courage the person showed by going on stage.
Those who mock the person on stage are the persons who don’t have guts themselves to hold an audience.
World class orators would empathize with you because they instantly know that you are on the learning curve, and they had faced the same situation themselves.
You can even tell your audience that this is your first time delivering in front of an audience and you may not be perfect. More often than not, it will loosen up the tense environment and you will feel relaxed because audience will now be ‘on your side’.
So there was the concrete plan on how you can completely win over your fear of public speaking. It has worked wonders for me and I strongly believe that if you follow the plan above, you will also become a fluent orator. Not today, but gradually after conscious practice.
I would also like to add here that the ‘fear ‘ per se, never really goes away. There would not be a time when you will feel nothing when it’s time to get on stage and speak. There will always be a tiny bit of lingering fear.
Important is that the fear would no more be paralyzing. You would not be immobilized by the fear, because you would realize it will go away once you have spent five minutes on stage.
I wish you the very best luck on getting over your fear of public speaking. Make the most of your life.
Until next time,
There, I am done.