7 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

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As a public speaking coach, I’ve helped many to conquer this fear and you can too. If you go into full “fight or flight,” you’re not alone. Follow the seven steps below and you will begin to conquer this fear today.

Fight or Flight

It you fear public speaking as I once did, your body reacts with a “fight or flight.”  My heart would race, and hands shake, holding my notes as I read, and the paper would shake, too–making it all the more difficult to read. I would sweat, and my mouth would go dry, making it hard to speak. Sometimes my mind just went blank. My face was always beet red, and I hated that part the most. Public speaking was not my friend, and I loathed it. Slowly, I moved from hating it, to “this isn’t so bad,” to liking it, and now loving it. I can happily share that I no longer shake, sweat, turn red, use notes. Now when I speak, my mouth is wet with words.  Following these steps will help you move from fear to confident communicator.

Seven ways to transition from fear to power speaker. 

1. Visualization

Visualization is a powerful tool; many successful athletes and business icons credit it for their success. Michael Phelps, a 23-time gold medalist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Lindsey Vonn, one of the most successful female skiers in history, visualized often. Oprah Winfrey and Jim Cary state that visualizing what they wanted to achieve made it happen.

Practicing visualization each day for 10-20 minutes will train your brain for success. Close your eyes and see the venue where you will be speaking. Imagine your audience. Are these colleagues or fellow students? Make the imagery vivid; include sounds, smells, lighting, and people. See yourself speaking with confidence. See the audience interested and engaged. Once you’ve given the presentation, feel pride and joy in your accomplishment. Your brain will interpret this as though it actually happened. I did this; my clients do this, and it works. Train your brain and transform your reality.

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2. Focus on the topic, not your "performance"

Remember the point of the speech or presentation. You’re there to serve the audience and provide valuable information. It’s not about you.

I was once working with a CEO who was raising money for his company and would get extremely nervous when presenting to potential sources of capital. I worked with him, and the first time he practiced, he stopped midway through due to nerves. I redirected his focus to the message; he wholeheartedly believes in the viability of his company. Once the focus shifted from him to his message and audience, his nervousness fell away. His confidence increased ten-fold, according to him. He went on to successfully speak confidently and received funding.

Focusing on your message and audience takes the pressure off of you.

3. Prepare bullet points

Write a framework that emphasizes talking points. Don’t write the entire speech and memorize it verbatim. This approach allows for your natural language to come through and enables you to be you. You don’t want to be robotic, reciting word for word what you’ve written.

4. Practice, practice, and more practice *out-loud*

Yes, as frequently as possible, in the car, walking and at home.

Speaking out loud continues to train your brain — most practice speeches in their minds. Whenever you practice your presentation out loud, you continue to strengthen the neuro pathways from thought to spoken word.

You can also record yourself. We often sound different than we think. Listen, identify areas for improvement, and continue to perfect your message.

5. Take advantage of every speaking opportunity

It’s like learning to play the piano. No one sits down and plays like Mozart. It’s taking incremental steps forward. The more you practice, the more confident, proficient, and engaging you become. Talk to new people at work and in social events. Give toasts. Volunteer information at your next meeting. Do something that scares you every day, and you will grow. 

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6. Expect the jitters. Then use it to your advantage

The jitters is the “fight or flight” reactions of our ancient ancestors when they perceived danger. Even seasoned speakers get jitters to some degree. You can redirect the adrenaline to add energy to your speech. How many times have we all suffered through lectures that put us to sleep? These speeches are monotone. Use adrenaline to speak with power. 

7. Stop the negative self-talk

Statements, such as-

  • I’m horrible.
  • I’m going to fail.
  • Everyone will think I’m stupid.

Everyone with a fear of public speaking began here. All of these statements are negative assumptions, and none of them are true. Are you a fortuneteller? Can you see the future? No. When this old broken record skips in your brain, stop the negative self-messaging in its tracks.Replace this with statements of empowerment.

    • I’m a confident public speaker. 
    •  I have valuable insight and information that people want to hear.
    • I’m continuing to grow in my speaking journey and getting better and better.

No one is born as a great speaker. It’s terrifying for most. Why not start these 7 exercises today? Begin with visualization and reframing thoughts. It’s free and easy to do. Next, plan to speak at an upcoming meeting or event. Draft a quick outline, and then practice what you’re going to say out loud. You’ll be shocked at how quickly you improve. These seven exercises took my clients and me from scared and silent to confident speakers. You can begin to conquer this fear today.

Kim VanBorkulo is a public speaking and leadership development coach for individuals and teams, non-profits and for-profits.  She is CEO of Speak Genesis [ www.speakgenesis.com ]

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