Good leaders are more often than not good public speakers. Having ‘the gift of the gab’ is a sure way to influence and persuade people. In almost every job it is beneficial to be good at public speaking, the problem is that most people fear speaking in front of a crowd.
Here are 5 helpful tips to overcome this fear.
1. Be fully prepared
Decide what you want to say and make a rough outline of your speech. Then write the notes that you will use to keep you on track during your speech. Leave it for a few hours while doing something else and then come back to it and rehearse your speech using the notes, updating them as necessary as you go. Decide if there is anything else you want to add and check that it flows well. Repeat the process until you are confident about your speech. If you are doing a presentation that requires images or video clips, prepare these now.
2. Know your Topic Well.
It is always easier to talk about something we know about and are interested in. If you are asked to speak on a topic you do not know so much about, consider whether you really want to accept it, and if you do, ensure you do plenty of research before you begin creating your speech. Having thorough knowledge of the topic will help to reduce anxiety. Most jobs require some public speaking in one form or another. For example, nurses need to pass the NCLEX RN exam to practice nursing, but being good at public speaking would stand them in good stead when talking to patients and addressing the media. Patients will have more confidence in a nurse that speaks well than one who does not.
As previously stated, you should practice your speech over and over until you are happy with it. When you are actually making your speech you can read your audience and deviate from what you’ve prepared if need be. Being thoroughly prepared should give you the confidence to diverge slightly and not get lost or panic because you have the safety net of your prepared speech to fall back on. No matter how nervous you are, you will sound calm if you are fully prepared. If you are worried that you may forget your well-practiced speech on the day, write down a few keywords that will lead you into your next point. Use these keywords when you are practicing so you know how they fit into your speech.
4. Breathe Deeply, and Flex Your Feet
Anxiety occurs when our bodies prepare for fight or flight. We may begin to sweat, our heart rate increases, and our hands may shake. This is due to adrenaline being released into the bloodstream. To combat these effects there are two quick and easy things you can do. Firstly, take a deep breath through your nose. Make sure to breathe in right to the bottom of your lungs. Hold your breath for a count of 4 and then release your breath slowly, again through your nose, being sure to empty your lungs completely. Repeat this a few times. You may not notice it but your body also tenses your leg muscles when readying for flight or fight. To counteract this tension, flex your feet as hard as you can for a count of 5, then point them as hard as you can for another count of 5. You should feel the tension leaving your legs, and your anxiety should decrease with it.
5. Prepare Your Body
Ensure that you get enough sleep the night before you make your speech. Adequate sleep is a good way to reduce anxiety. Avoid caffeine and sugar on the morning of your speech. These can both exacerbate anxiety. If possible, try to get some exercise in before your speech. Exercise is the best cure for anxiety. Don’t eat just before you speak, as nervousness can interfere with digestion and cause discomfort.
Whatever your reasons for needing to speak in public, these 5 tips will help you to overcome your fear and become a better speaker. Be prepared, and speak on a topic you know well. Practice until you can say what you want to say in a conversational manner. Fight off anxiety by deep breathing and flexing and being kind to your body. Good luck with your speech.