Useful tips on how you can actually overcome public speaking anxiety and fear of audiences.
Have you ever wished to better manage your public speaking nerves and took public speaking classes? Maybe you have even put the improvement of your public speaking skills on your Christmas wish list or have made it once your New Year's resolution? Many of us have been there! Public speaking is one of the crucial career skills.
But anxiety with public speaking can often make it seen by many as an unreachable El Dorado.
Yet, once we succeed in mastering our public speaking skills, we cannot understand anymore what has been so challenging in the first place. And this is precisely the point: Public speaking is a skill accessible to everybody!
Why do we have public speaking anxiety in the first place?
To begin with, we need to understand how bad is our public speaking anxiety. Is it just mere nervousness, with a slightly higher heartbeat and a little bit of palms sweating? If so, no need to worry about it. This is totally normal. Some adrenaline rush can even be helpful to keep you focused and alert! If, however, you feel that your concerns are much greater than mere nervousness, the chances are that you have some degree of anxiety. It may be caused by various factors.
Fear of rejection. All of us want to be welcomed and appreciated by our audiences. One of the worst things that can destabilise us before the presentation is (often irrational) fear of being rejected. We need to do our best not to let this fear overcome us. Remember: people attend your presentation because you have something to say; you know something, what they don’t.
Lack of self-confidence. Before you make a public presentation, make sure that the level of your self-confidence corresponds to the task of presenting in front of a public. As in the case with the fear of being rejected, you need to remember that there is a good reason why people want to attend your presentation: you have something interesting and important to say. This realisation should give some boost to your confidence!
State of mind and beliefs. Often our fear of rejection or low self-esteem have deeper roots than we are ready to acknowledge. They may be caused by what is known as constraining beliefs. Such beliefs can cause the blockage and put you into a state of stress. Unless you understand and tackle your constraining beliefs, they will hunt you every time you prepare and deliver presentations.
Power of imagination. Something that helps to overcome fear and anxiety is the use of imagination. Imagine that you feel confident on stage and interact freely with your audience. Try to understand what exactly you would feel and how would you behave if that was true. In other words, step into the image you have created and enjoy it! Then, try to think and assess what has helped you during your imaginary presentation to overcome the obstacles, which you normally face while preparing and delivering your presentations.
Preparation. If you want to succeed with your presentation, you need to allocate enough time for its preparation and practice.
How to organise a public speaking presentation?
Whether you are anxious about your presentation or not, a successful presentation needs a thorough preparation and a clear structure. Your presentation needs to be as congruent as possible: all aspects and nuances should be in harmony with each other, reinforcing your key points and making your presentation memorable.
Goal to achieve. Try to have a clear understanding of your objectives. What is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want to achieve?
Main idea. Your presentation should contain its main idea and there should be only one main idea, which you can express in clear terms at the very beginning of your presentation.
Catching title. A witty, smart, captivating and slightly provocative title ensures attention and involvement of your audience.
Structure. Like any important piece of information, your presentation needs to have a clear structure: introduction-main body-conclusion-discussion/Q&A.
Visuals. Try to make sure that your presentation is not overloaded with text and numbers. A lot of letters and numbers are often indigestible and are the ‘best’ way to lose connection with your audience and their attention. Images, graphs and tables ease the perception.
High quality content. Ideally, your presentation has to have some added value. Your audience wants to be gratified for coming to your presentation. New knowledge or information is the best possible gratification.
Easy accessible and shareable presentation. Make sure people can access your presentation and share it with others. Verify that everything is saved in readable formats and versions; links to any internet sources are updated and accessible; files and other documents are downloadable.
Delivery practice. Spend time in front of a mirror, practicing your presentation. If you have enough time, record it and listen back. Even better, ask a friend or colleague to be your first audience.
Personal examples and storytelling. Fill in your presentation with some personal stories and examples. This brings the audience closer to you.
How to communicate the message in a better way?
Don’t forget that the preparation is not only about what you are going to say during your presentation, but also about how you are going to say it. In other words, invest your time into the improvement of your non-verbal skills. Chances to present a memorable and remarkable presentation are higher if your body language is purposeful and well coordinated. Make a thorough investment in your non-verbal skills once and you can reapply them every time you make a new presentation.
Facial expression. Make sure that your facial expression communicates the same message as your text. Don’t be too serious delivering a joke or too joyful talking about serious facts. Your audience reacts as much or even more to your facial expression as they react to your words.
Use of space. Your movements are important. Your body should radiate confidence and competence. Use your space to send a clear message. Purposeful movements together with a firm but relaxed posture in front of your audience reveal the degree of your authority and influence.
Voice tone. Make sure your voice is properly modulated. It needs to be distinctive and loud enough for people at the back of the audience to follow your presentation. Deliver your message slowly and clearly for better comprehension. You can speak a bit faster when delivering the information of secondary importance.
Eye contact. Maintain eye contact with your audience. This is particularly important when you present the major points.
Have we missed some moments that you find important? Would you like to share with us your experience of delivering public presentations? Please, feel free to share this guide with anyone you believe may benefit from our suggestions.
If you need any help with verbal or non-verbal aspects of your presentation, we are happy to share with you our knowledge and experience. Even more importantly, we are here for you if you experience problems with public speech anxiety or constraining beliefs. The Gross Leadership offers online and live consultations and trainings from its base in Zurich, Switzerland.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…”
(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)
We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!
With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.