Public speaking is a fear that can give a person sleepless nights if he has to go on stage and address people. Or worse, nightmares when he does sleep. I would say it is not so much a fear of public speaking that troubles the speaker but it is more about being judged and what others would say and perceive about him. I would state it as fear of being judged, publicly. And rightfully so because we are judging people all the time. Is he honest? Does he know what he is talking about? Why is he being so aggressive? He isn’t dressed well. The mental chatter about people stays turned on most of the times.
If you have found yourself with a churning stomach and sinking feeling in your heart on the mention of speaking to an audience, here are a few steps to calm your nerves and help you create a smashing impact with your public address.
1) Face yourself. A lot of men don’t look at themselves more than the time spent brushing their teeth or while getting ready to see if their tie is in order. They spend the majority of their time looking at others and forming opinions based on that observation. As basic as it sounds, my suggestion is if your speaking engagement is for one hour then stand in front of the mirror for one hour and talk. See what others will see about you. Be dressed with the way you would be when you take center stage. Observe your expressions, your gestures and the way you stand. You will move from criticism to confidence within a few practices.
2) Exercise your memory. Practice your content almost till its set in your memory. Nervousness kills focus and for some speakers it causes amnesia. If you haven’t yet mastered the art of having the audiences eating out of your hands, practice and memorize your speech. Along with the content, pay attention to the places, which need a pause or emphasis. Pay attention to the diction. Good orators plan and practice their talk. It is after hours of practice that they take the stage and rock the audience.
3) Record and replay. Go a step ahead from 1 and 2 and record your talk and watch it. That way you get to be the speaker and the audience. It is difficult to make the change that others want in you but it’s easy to make the change when you spot the errors in your own work or behavior. You will be amazed at how easily and swiftly you can change and control mannerisms and speech faults just by observation.
4) Prepare for a Q and A even if there is none. Even if your talk doesn’t involve a discussion, prepare for it. Just thinking from the audience’s point of you allows you a stability and control of that audience and adds incredible confidence in your content. You will need to indulge in an informal Q and A on your way out where some people will compliment you for your talk while others will have some questions.
5) Break the ice. Before you start off with your talk, break the ice that you can feel in the cold looks creeping up your spine and freezing it. Crack a joke. Get a giggle or a laugh out of the audience. While preparing for your talk, have a joke book as reference for your start. If you can make people laugh or cry, you have mastered the art of public speaking.
6) Keep a cheat sheet. As much as you may have rehearsed and practiced your speech, keep a small cheat sheet of the bullet points of your talk, incase you forget the flow. A cheat sheet is not a bundle of papers; it’s a very small paper, which you can keep on the dais or in your pocket in case of need. And if you do forget, accept defeat and look at the sheet. Don’t continue with the blank and nervous look for long. It’s ok to put your hand in the pocket and exclaim ‘Oh yes, and one more thing’, than mumbling and stumbling. And if you make a mistake, don’t try and cover up and look in control. People can spot it. Just say, ‘Sorry about that’ or ‘Pardon me,’ acknowledge the error and move on.
7) Dress your best. Don’t just dress up – dress for success. Get some feedback on what you will wear. Consult a stylist if needed; what style most accentuates your body contour; what shades suit your complexion and hair color. Most people do
judge a book by the cover. Be prepared.
8) Keep yourself cheerful. Don’t get into stressful work before your talk. Spend a few hours prior in doing things that make you happy. Listen to good music or watch your favorite videos. The point is to ward off nervousness and anxiety about your upcoming talk.
9) Hold your space. Prior to your talk allow yourself the space to gather yourself. Go over your talk. Go over your look. Go over how the audience will react. Don’t get into chitchat with people before your talk. Try and stay back stage or arrive just in time for your talk. Do the chitchat with people later after you are done with your speech.
10) Don’t look at everyone. When you do take the stage, the sight of everyone looking at you hits you. We don’t like people staring at us. If you were in a train and someone looked at you constantly for five minutes it would make you uncomfortable. Imagine what level of nervousness one is subconsciously driven to when the entire crowd is looking at you till you get off the stage. Don’t ‘look’ at everyone. Glance at them. Quickly move over the uninterested or hostile faces. Don’t look at them again.
Identify your three happy faces, one on the left, one on the right and one in the middle. So each time you look at him or her it seems you are looking at everyone. Speaking in public puts you on a pedestal, it allows you the power to influence people and shape their minds. It’s a position of great responsibility and calls for severe judgment. But with practice, you will be the conductor orchestrating a great symphony and mesmerizing people with your words, your posture and your confidence.
So these were 10 points to help you overcome the fear of public speaking.
This is Priya Kumar signing off. Thank you for listening. Do connect with me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, I would be happy to interact with you.