This story was originally published in Art Hive Magazine issue #30, Summer 2019
A famous study once found that public speaking was the number one fear across a wide segment of the population. To put that in perspective, fear of death came in a distant second. So, is speaking in front of a crowd really more terrifying than taking your last breath? If so, what can ordinary people do to tackle that terror? Whether you are asked to give a presentation in front of a group of colleagues or debate a contentious topic in a large auditorium, the fear and trepidation are very real.
The good news is there are things you can do to overcome that fear of public speaking. Here are 10 ways to make it happen:
6. Do some pre-speech exercises. Light stretching exercises will help you stay limber and make it easier to relax. If you are feeling stressed, take a brisk walk around the grounds to get ready for your big speech.
7. Stay hydrated. It is important to drink water before and during your speech, so keep a bottle nearby. You do not want to overdo it—taking a bathroom break in the middle of your presentation would be very bad form.
8. Take a class. A class in public speaking can be a godsend for the anxious, especially if this is your first time. The classroom will give you a chance to practice public speaking in a safe environment, and you can rest assured your fellow students share the same anxieties.
9. Choose a subject you feel passionate about. Giving a great speech about something you care nothing about is a recipe for disaster, so choose your topic with care. Look for a cause you feel passionately about —it will ease your anxiety and make the speech that much better.
10. Stay focused. If you want your presentation to go well, keep your focus where it belongs—on the material you are presenting. Focusing on the audience will ramp up the anxiety, so keep your mind on the material.
1. Stay organized. Fumbling for your papers in the middle of a presentation will ramp up the terror that much more, so make sure you are organized before you begin.
2. Practice, practice, practice. The more you know the material, the more confident you will feel on the stage. Practice your presentation— both in front of the mirror and with some trusted friends.
3. Record yourself speaking. Video recorders are everywhere these days, so take advantage of that fact. Recording yourself will acclimate you to the sound of your own voice and help ease the fear of public speaking.
4. Use deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing can help you relax, but it takes practice to get it right. Practice your deep breathing exercises until they become second nature.
5. Learn to meditate. Meditation is a powerful tool for self-improvement, and a great way to tackle the terror of public speaking. Like deep breathing, learning to meditate will take some practice, but the sooner you get started, the sooner you can master this important skill.
The fear of public speaking is pervasive, common in virtually every culture and across every possible demographic. If you are feeling anxious about an upcoming presentation or break out in a cold sweat at the thought of giving a speech, you are not alone.
That does not mean, however, that you can simply hideout and hope the speech will go away. If you want to overcome your anxiety and express your confidence, you need to tackle the terror head on.
Check out our Hello Creatives! podcast for more on this topic! Episode “10 Ways to Take the Fear Out of Public Speaking.”