There’s a surprising number of people more afraid of public speaking than of dying. Some have turned down promotions when the new job required them to speak in front of an audience. For others, just thinking about giving a public presentation makes them feel physically ill.
Good news – It is possible to overcome the fear of public speaking. In fact, with a bit of knowledge about how the human mind works, consistent practice, and some polishing of delivery skills, almost anyone can become a relaxed, professional, and confident speaker. Here are some tips and links to more information that will help you make that transformation.
It Starts with Your Mindset
If you’ve been invited to speak to an audience, then at least one person must think you have important information to share. And if you accepted the invitation, you probably agree. Keep your focus on your audience and the value your information will bring to them. It’s not about you, it’s about them – inspiring them, informing them, or building collaboration through delivering knowledge that can take them in a new direction.
Keeping your mind focused on helping others will work wonders for reducing your stress. (If you’d like to learn more about how to shift your mindset to change your response to stress, give a listen to this podcast from Hidden Brain)
Preparation is Key
Your preparation should also start with your audience. Find out as much as you can about who will be there, why they are there, and what you think they hope to take away from your presentation. Of course, you’ll also want to know your content well, and practice your delivery several times before you present.
There is one more technique you might want to practice before you present, because it will not only help you with your delivery, but will help you stay calm, and that is controlled breathing. This article in the New York Times (no paywall) explains the science behind it, and the basic technique.
Hone your Delivery Skills
There are several delivery skills that are important, but three are critical:
- Eye contact: This is one of the most effective ways of connecting with your audience. We offer an in-depth look at the hows and whys of eye connection in this post on our website.
- Remember to pause: Stop speaking. Take a breath. Then continue. Remembering to pause is the best way to eliminate filler words (um, uh, you know) and to give your audience a chance to absorb the information you’ve been sharing with them. Just a few seconds can make a lot of difference in your delivery and your audience’s comprehension.
- Posture: An open, non-threatening, but confident posture gives the impression of both authority and approachability. It also reduces your own stress. Keep your weight evenly on both feet with the weight towards the ball of your foot and feet 6 to 8 inches apart. Keep your shoulders back, and your head up.
It takes time and practice to become a fearless, confident speaker. One of the best and fastest ways to improve is to get professional feedback and practice in a safe and supportive environment.
ProComm Ltd. offers small, focused, in-house programs with private and in-room coaching as well as video recording that will bring immediate and tangible improvements in communication for you and your team.