When it comes to public speaking, what are your fears? Are you an introvert? Are you a perfectionist? Are you shy? Are you overly concerned about what others think of you? These common social anxieties can be career limiting as well as socially debilitating to varying degrees.
When we’re in the spotlight and expected to speak in front of people, a rush of fear sets in, and our bodies naturally produce adrenaline, an instinctive fight-or-flight hormonal response.
This fear, called glossophobia, is perfectly natural and common. Studies reveal that over 75% of the population experience some degree of fear when required to speak in front of people. You can’t get rid of the fear, but you can control it so that it no longer controls you.
The trick is, you can feel the fear, but you don’t have to reveal the fear. There are ways to manage the adrenaline symptoms so that despite the fact that you may be shaking in your knees, you appear to speak with comfort and ease. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. As author Susan Jeffers says, “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Preparing a well-crafted speech is the first step toward gaining confidence when delivering your speech. Take the time to carefully craft your speech with well-chosen words organized in a clear, logical, compelling way including an intriguing open and an impactful close. Then practice and rehearse your speech multiple times.
After you’ve prepared and practiced your speech, it’s show-time and the microphone is yours. This is where the adrenaline kicks in. Breathing exercises is the most important technique you can use to minimize the effects of adrenaline anxiety. Slow, deliberate breathing will help calm your nerves. Breathe in counting up to seven, hold it, and breathe out when you reach eleven. Repeat this breathing exercise several times before taking the stage.
Physical exercises also help to minimize the adrenaline symptoms. Simple stretching and bending of your arms, your shoulders, your torso, and your legs will help relax your body and your mind. This can be done discreetly while sitting or standing.
When presenting your speech to an audience, get out of your head and into your message. Train your mind to resist focusing on you and instead focus on your well-prepared content. Take pauses while speaking, which will prompt you to slow down, breathe and relax. Use your body when delivering your message…specifically hand gestures can play a key role in distracting your mind from your nervousness as well as help emphasize key points in your message.
If you make a mistake, if you forget a line or two, if you fumble on a few words….so what, who cares. Keep speaking anyway. In most cases, your audience will not detect minor flaws in your presentation. And even if you made a huge mistake….keep your head held high. Be resilient. Be fearless. And be willing to take the stage again, and again, and again. Before you know it, you will be unstoppable as a confident public speaker.