It’s quite funny how research has shown that we fear Public Speaking more than we fear Death!
We’ve all been there. You’re looking great and ready for that winning presentation or job interview. You’ve practiced it a million and eleven times and you feel as confident as you’re just about to take a sip of water. In no time you find yourself standing there with tens of eyes staring and waiting impatiently for you to utter the words. Instead all you’re thinking is: “OMG I’m supposed to speak now, what should I say? How should I start? I’m messing this up! They think I’m an idiot...” You just wish Harry Potter could appear and magically make you disappear!
Public Speaking can very frightening especially if you’ve had a previous not-so-good experience. Stage fright can consume you in no time and make you as mobile and vocal as a bamboo stick in an endless wasteland. From your hands shaking faster than Eminem’s rapping to your brain accelerating through all possible escape plans, all your body parts are moving excessively except for the one that should be; your mouth. Seems as though that sip of water is choking you to death!
I think you get the image. Now you’re asking, “Well, how do I prevent those career-impacting experiences from happening again? How do I overcome my fear?” Well I suggest you close this page if you wish to overcome your fear of public speaking. I shall tell you a simple truth, overcoming fear of public speaking is as #impossible as tickling yourself! Before you ask, how others can be as fearless as the Superman when they’re presenting, might I add, there is a difference between overcoming and controlling your fear.
If someone says they are not worried/nervous/afraid of their upcoming presentation in a few moments, it could only mean one or two things.
They don’t care about it.
They’re lying right through their teeth.
In this article I’m going to share with you few practices to help control your fear and turn it into your advantage when presenting. Yes! Your fear could become your strength.
Rule #1: Keep it to yourself!
I've heard so many people start off their presentations by saying something like "Hi. This is the first time I'm doing this so I'm quite nervous." or "Good morning, I haven't had much time to prepare so yeahhhh...". Those are some of the worst openings I've ever heard and unfortunately I've heard them more than any other styles of opening. Simply put, never verbally acknowledge that you’re nervous or afraid. That’ll only make it worse as the audience will start to pick on any sign of nervousness from you to render you a nervous speaker and hence unconvincing and pathetic. Instead, acknowledge to yourself that you’re anxious. After all, you’re about to do something important so it’s only natural that you’d feel the butterflies in your tummy. This will help you control your nervousness and stop it from consuming you.
Shouting it out loud, won’t add any meaning to your presentation and not only it’ll reduce your confidence exponentially, it’ll also damage your credibility as a presenter.
Rule #2: Make them hungry!
You don’t have to start speaking right off the cuff. A lot of nervous speakers start blabbering as soon as they enter the stage and they end up blabbering. If you want my advice, take your time and nest yourself on the stage. Find the center point and plant yourself into the stage. Take a good look at the audience with a massive smile on your face and make a few brief eye-contacts with the people in the audience. Take a deep breath and let it out. Sink yourself in that moment. The colour of the room, the temperature of the air, the atmosphere of the session. You need to feel it all.
The wait is not going to portray you as an under-confident person, unless you keep quiet awkwardly long. Instead it will create a suspense within the audience and it’ll make them hungry for your first words. Once you feel comfortable enough on the stage, you’re ready to give them that jaw-dropping presentation.
Rule #3: Get them involved!
One of the most helpful techniques to put yourself and more importantly your audience in a comfortable place, is asking an opinion-based question. Get them to raise their hand, shout out answers, raise a green or red card to show agreement or disagreement etc. Anything that works and is appropriate to the ceremony and the audience. That’ll not only take the spotlight off of you for a while and allow you to regroup yourself, it’ll also work as an ice-breaker and will reduce the tension in the room.
Just be careful with what you’re asking them to do. Don’t ask the board of directors to get off their chairs and hi5 each other. That’ll probably get you more choking than the sip of water was!
Rule #4: Stop Fidgeting!
One of the worst habits we have during our presentation is uncontrolled and meaningless body movement; fidgeting. From pulling our fingers to moving back and forth the stage, you should understand how body movement can add meaning and impact to your presentation or else, it’ll only be distracting the audience from listening to you.
When we are nervous, it’s only natural for us to start fidgeting but we should always be careful and keep in mind that the unnecessary body movement is as poisonous as a bad marriage; figuratively speaking of course! Keep your hands on your sides or bend your elbows at roughly 100 degrees with your palms facing upwards just above your waist. if you are not holding a microphone or a laser pointer, be sure to use your other hand to provide meaningful hand gestures in your presentation.
Rule #5: Enjoy yourself!
Here’s the ultimate advice I can give to any speaker/presenter. Enjoy your time in the spotlight. The moment you embrace the chance to speak before an audience and try to have fun on stage, you will transform into a pro speaker. It’s no secret that we excel at things that we enjoy so always try to embrace it with loads of positivity and fun and that will automatically stop your stage freight from getting the best of you.
I've been a pro speaker for years and spoken at many different kinds of events. I'm glad to say the majority of them were successful but I've also had my fair share of not-so-impressive times on stage as well. Usually my bad experiences happen when I'm distracted or caught up by other matters in life so much that I'm not having fun on the stage.
Enjoy the moment. It won't last forever!
I sincerely hope that you would benefit from my sharing with you and if you happen to have a question, feedback or any queries, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me HERE. I’d be delighted to hear from you especially feedbacks, either positive or constructive. We should always remember that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.
Co-Founder & Training Director