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8 Helpful Tips to Help You Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking

Believe it or not, the age old advice to ‘imagine the audience in their underwear’ is not the most foolproof way of overcoming your fear of speaking in front of a crowd. So to help you feel more confident when making a speech, we thought we would provide our top 8 tips on how to rise above your fear.

Practice makes perfect

This is a cliché piece of advice – but it works. Everyone remembers John Travolta’s infamous mispronunciation of Idina Menzel’s name at the 2016 Oscars – Adele Dazeem, anyone? – but the truth is that if he had read through his script a few more times, perhaps the viral moment would never have taken place. Let this be a lesson to us all; know your stuff. Back to front, inside and out. When you are this familiar with what you’re saying, the likelihood of you getting it wrong is much lower.

Prepare for the worst case scenario

Although practicing your speech is crucial, the truth is that when you’re finally in front of all those people, the experience will be a lot different to the one you have when you’re in your room alone. Whether you encounter technical difficulties, drop your notes or are distracted by the people chatting in the front row, you need to be able to overcome distraction. Get a friend or family member to talk in front of you or deliberately drop your cards and attempt to find your place again in order to prepare for anything that the situation may throw at you. This will make you feel more confident in your ability to overcome any mishap that may occur along the way.

View your speech as a conversation

Unless you’re a high-flying celebrity, chances are that you’re not speaking at the Oscar’s (but on the off chance that you are – congratulations). It’s helpful to remember that the people in front of you are listening as individuals, so making eye contact and acting as if you’re speaking only to them can help to make the situation much easier.

Refrain from overthinking

Did you know that up to 90% of human communication is thought to be non-verbal? When you’re having a one on one conversation with someone, this is evident by the way they lean forward, smile or give you other affirming reactions. But when people are in a large group, they tend to not do this no matter how much they are enjoying the speech. So what does this mean for you? Well, firstly, don’t freak yourself out by thinking that you’re doing a bad job simply because you can’t decipher any non-verbal cues. And on the off chance that you do see someone falling asleep, chalk it up to them having a long night. It’s not you, it’s then. Leave the overthinking at the door.

Look on the bright side

While preparing for the worst is a good tactic when practicing your speech, there is no use in obsessively day dreaming about how you will crash and burn the minute you get up on stage. Instead of thinking “what if I screw up?” think about how great it will feel when you nail it. If that doesn’t convince you, try to think back to the last time someone stumbled on a word or lost their place when making a speech. Chances are, you can’t – and that’s because small, common mistakes are things that nobody remembers at the end of the day.

Look confident, feel confident

Your heart might be racing, your palms might be sweaty and you may have had nervous butterflies for the past week – but nobody in front of you can see that unless you let them. The Expectation Theory states that people are more likely to interpret situations as they see them, so if you stand up straight and speak in a strong, self-assured tone, most people will probably think you’re barely even phased by the situation.

Keep your mind on what you’re saying

At the end of the day, you can only do so much to control how people will respond or interpret your words. Try not to stress about how the audience will receive your words and instead focus on delivering them in a confident, clear manner. Focus on yourself and your message and you are sure to do a great job.

Don’t give up

If public speaking is something you are required to do for your job or your schoolwork, don’t let your fear discourage you from regularly getting up there and doing it. It might take a while, but eventually you will become less scared of being up on stage in front of those people. Remember that the audience is interested in what you’ve got to say – so believe in your message and be confident in your ability.

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