Afraid of public speaking? 7 strategies to help you get over it | Martha Payne


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Public Speaking_Martha Payne

Do you have speech problems or the fear of speaking in public? If so, you’re not alone.

Many people suffer from performance anxiety whenever they are presented with the challenge of standing on a podium or starting conversations with new people. 

Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is a very common phobia and is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. This phobia can range from slight nervousness to full-on fear, and can even become intense to the point of causing panic attacks. 

Some people avoid embarrassment by avoiding public speaking altogether. 

That isn’t the right approach to this problem, as the more you avoid speaking in public, the more the problem exacerbates and ends up becoming chronic and disruptive. 

Untreated, it could become problematic for your career. Sharing ideas in meetings, managing teams, or speaking on your organizations behalf all require speaking to a group of people. Not being able to do this will make you lose many opportunities for career advancement and promotion.  

To overcome this problem, try out these 7 techniques for overcoming speech challenges:

1.      Prepare thoroughly

Many people are anxious about speaking in public because of the fear that they don’t have enough knowledge about the topic.

They fear that someone in the audience might ask a tough question that they aren’t sufficiently equipped to answer. 

A. Prepare

You can fix this problem by preparing thoroughly and gaining enough confidence in your ability to deliver optimally on the topic. Ensure that you rehearse and research far and wide. 

Time your rehearsal presentations to ensure that your presentation fits within your limited stage time.

B. Avoid memorizing

Another confidence booster is ensuring that you don’t just memorize a script. 

Understand every concept of the presentation to ensure that you won't get lost during your delivery. 

Memorizing word for word is risky because you can forget some words or, in some extreme cases, something might interfere with your line of thought and disrupt your flow. 

Just remember the key points and the key subtopics and fill in the rest during the presentation. Improvisation gives you a sense of spontaneity, which will keep your audience engaged. 

2.      Don’t rush 

Rushing means talking fast without caring whether your points are clear or not, or without caring much about your body language. 

When you speak quickly, your breathing patterns change and you start experiencing shortness and shallowness of breath. 

Sometimes you might run out of air or be forced to hold your breath abruptly. 

This isn’t a good sign because people will notice your restlessness and probably start analyzing you as a person instead of focusing on what you have to say. 

3.      Practice voice control

There are many opportunities for speech therapy for adults that you can leverage if you wish to practice voice control. 

At the end of the practice, you will have learned how to breathe through the diaphragm as opposed to the chest. 

Diaphragmatic breathing is an invaluable technique for any public performer, including singers, pastors, and public speakers. There are several techniques for how to exercise diaphragmatic breathing. This one  is called the rib-stretch technique:

  1. Stand up and arch your back

  2. Breathe out as heavily as possible

  3. Start inhaling slowly and gradually, taking as much air as possible

  4. Hold your breath for about 10 seconds

  5. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. You can do this normally or with pursed lips

4.      Engage the audience

The trick here is to make your presentation interactive, as opposed to creating a monologue. 

The challenge of having a monologue is that you will carry the burden of educating the audience and entertaining them all by yourself. 

Unless you are a comedian, reducing audience boredom when giving a monologue is almost impossible. 

Interaction, on the other hand, allows you to ask questions and to engage the audience in order to keep them active. 

Giving them a minute to discuss something amongst themselves allows you to take a breather, during which time you can reorganize your thoughts.

3 ways to make a presentation interactive

  1. Ask for interaction
    Start the presentation by asking a question or letting the audience know that throughout the presentation you will ask for their input.

  2. Ask for their opinion
    People like their opinion to be heard. Making a statement during a presentation and then asking people what they think is a great way to keep the audience interested and focused.

  3. Use visuals or props
    People like things to be presented visually, as graphics can transmit a message more easily than a heavy load of text. Using interactive videos or icons in your PPT slides can keep the audience focused and interested on what you are saying.

For more on this topic:

5.      Work on your body language

Your body language conveys as much, if not more, information as the words you speak. Don’t let your anxiety show through your face or posture. 

Be aware of the positioning of your hands, your posture, facial expressions, and stage movements.

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6. Face your fears

Hiding your anxiety makes it even more obvious to the audience. 

Just get it all in and stay in the moment. 

Quit reminding yourself that you don’t deserve to be on that stage. 

Don’t keep checking if they are noticing how anxious you are. 

7.      Stage presence is key

Be enthusiastic and energetic. 

Let everyone in the auditorium feel your presence. 

Smile freely without forcing it. 

Flow naturally and show everyone that you enjoy being there.

Delivering a speech involves much more than simply learning the words and saying them to an audience, engaging speakers use their stage presence to draw their audience into their message and keep their attention throughout the talk.

Whether onscreen, onstage, or in a workshop, stage presence means you’ve taken into account your space and where you fit in it, and how this affects how the audience sees you.

Great stage presence includes;

  • aligning your body posture with the tone of you are talking about, 

  • adopting powerful body language, 

  • using the space effectively, 

  • projecting your voice appropriately. 

This takes practice and forethought, and we have created resources to help you level up your stage presence. If you want more on this topic, read these articles next. 


Wrapping it up

Developing strong public speaking skills is important both in your personal life and in your career. 

Knowing that you are a strong public speaker reduces your anxiety and boosts your confidence significantly, which is necessary for success in almost every aspect of life. 

Even if you do not speak on a regular basis, the need to speak can arise anytime, and these tips will help you speak like a pro. 

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