Fear of public speaking

Scared_GirlFive tips to turn your anxiety into an ally

Cold sweats. Forgetting your lines. Red face. Stuttering. Croaky voice.

Feeling as if you’re completely losing control over your body and mind. Help!

What about you? Is the stage your second home, or is public speaking your worst nightmare?

The good news: fear of public speaking can be fixed.

“It’s easy for you”, I sometimes hear from people in my seminars.

Easy? When I was a kid, I’d turn bright red if I had to speak in front of my class. If it had been up to me, I would have rather just disappeared.

Precisely because I had such a hard time with it, I started to pay close attention and copied what seemed to be working well for others. I embraced every opportunity to show off my bright red face to a group.

If it worked for me, why wouldn’t it for you?

Five tips to make fear your ally during presentations:

  1. Throw yourself to the lions

Practice makes perfect. Solid presentations require plenty of practice.

Try out new things, the more the better. But start with smaller groups rather than with a full house at an international convention.

  1. Memorize the first minute

Bombing a presentation typically happens at the very beginning. Memorize your first minute so you can blindly talk your way through it.

Memorizing the entire presentation is not such a good idea, since one forgotten word may cause you to get stuck halfway.

Make sure your structure is clearly imprinted in your head.

  1. Practice in front of a mirror

Practice as much as you can, out loud, and ideally in front of a mirror. Even better: film yourself.

This may be awkward, but it could reveal an all too distracting tic or habit.

Start practicing out loud at least three days ahead of your presentation, and repeat this daily. This will allow your brain to truly absorb the presentation.

  1. Speak about your passion

Public speakers typically do a much better job when they are excited about their subject. Eliminate things from your presentation that you don’t really care about, and start off with something that drives you.

Feel confident to talk about yourself. Why is this subject so interesting to you? This will help your audience to empathize with you and your message.

  1. Be yourself

Are you nervous? Quite normal, really. You want to do a good job.

Don’t try to hide your stress by faking an attitude of “I don’t care” (hands in pockets, sighing, staring at the ceiling, etc.)

How can you allow some space in your presentation for your fear?

One presentation I will never forget is the one about ladybugs, by a participant in a workshop.

The researcher showed us a stuffed ladybug. His research addressed how to naturally fight pests on strawberry plants by attracting insects.

At the end of his presentation he pointed to the ladybug and said: “The black on the ladybug symbolizes x (x being something in his research, I forgot the details), and the red refers to the color of my face when I have to speak in public.”

Brilliant, right? He incorporated his fear of public speaking into his presentation, and walked away with the audience’s vote for best presentation.

Elbert Hubbard once said: ‘The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.’

Just do it.

(Picture: scared girl)