It’s no secret that the fear of public speaking is one of the most often cited phobias on the planet. Getting up in front of an audience and giving a presentation is often deemed scarier than the highest of heights, the largest of spiders and the darkest of dark rooms. Really, it’s no wonder that, given the chance, most of us would trade away our life’s savings for a world without public speaking!
Of course, it doesn’t matter how scary public speaking might seem. All of us will be called on to give public presentations at some point or another in our lives, so it’s worth figuring out how to make the process more comfortable for everyone involved before you’re actually up on stage.
And although simple practice and repetition are the best ways to get over this phobia, the thought of actively seeking out additional public speaking opportunities may sound prohibitively overwhelming to people who are afraid of giving even a single presentation. So, to bring about the same results without the hours of misery spent forcing yourself to give speech after speech, check out the following tricks that’ll make you a better public speaker right away:
Trick #1 – Speak to a larger crowd
It sounds counterintuitive, but if you’re afraid of getting up in front of people and speaking, look for even more people to give your presentation to! Here’s why…
When you speak to a small crowd (like a board of directors or small group of potential investors), it’s nearly impossible to avoid making eye contact with every person in the room. It doesn’t just feel like every set of eyes in the room is boring into you – they are, because you’re the only focal point in a small presentation! As a result, it’s difficult to determine where to rest your own gaze in a small group, leading to discomfort and anxiety.
In larger settings, you can casually glance over the shoulders of your listeners – creating the impression that you’re making eye contact with others in the room when you’re actually doing anything but. This makes the speech-giving process 100 times more comfortable, dramatically increasing your likelihood of presentation success.
So, whenever possible, try to expand the size of the crowd to which you’re speaking. If you’re giving a single-department presentation, ask if others can be invited. Or, if you’re presenting to a local networking group, hype up your forthcoming speech in order to build up the turnout. While it won’t be possible to put together a large crowd for every public speaking event you encounter, the times that you’re able to do so will go a long way towards boosting your confidence.
Trick #2 – Tell a personal story
The best public speakers are those who are able to access a range of facial expressions, vocal intonations and physical movements in order to create a dynamic presentation. But this ease doesn’t often come naturally – especially to people who are terrified of being flung into public speaking situations.
If you find yourself delivering your speech in a monotone voice with a wooden physical demeanor, one thing you can do to access your looser side is to tell your audience a personal story. By calling up personal memories, you’ll remove yourself from the fear and anxiety – allowing you to convey information in a way that’s more natural and easy-going.
Trick #3 – Remember that everyone’s afraid of public speaking
When you’re speaking to a group of people, it’s natural to feel as if your viewers are judging your every mistake. Certainly, you’re being hard enough on yourself for every single misstep you perceive – so why wouldn’t your audience members be judging you just as harshly?
Of course, anyone who’s ever sat through a speech given by a clearly-nervous speaker knows that it’s actually the opposite that’s true. Most presentation attendees aren’t judging you – they’re really on your side and want you to succeed. Since we can all clearly call up memories of our own disastrous speaking engagements, it’s natural for us to want others to avoid similar discomfort.
So if you’re struggling with nerves before your presentation, look at your audience with a fresh set of eyes and remind yourself that the people in the crowd aren’t there to judge you. They’ve come to hear your speech with the best of intentions, and they’re all rooting for your success. Simply reminding yourself that your audience members aren’t out to get you may be enough to allow you to mentally reframe your fears, turning the process of public speaking into something much more comfortable.
Do you have any other tricks that have helped you to get over the anxiety of speaking in public? If so, share your recommendations with fellow readers by posting your advice in the comments section below!