Tips to Conquer Public Speaking Fears

Michele Warg
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Public speaking skills aren’t always listed in job descriptions, but employers expect you to communicate ideas and deliver engaging presentations to succeed in professional environments. Public speaking fears often indicate that you don’t feel confident or prepared, but you can overcome obstacles by conditioning yourself to avoid a defeatist mindset. If the thought of speaking in front of crowds sends your anxiety level skyrocketing, use these public speaking tips to calm your nerves before presentations.

Practice Your Speech

Preparation gives you the opportunity to work out the weak points in a presentation and find the right words to convey your thoughts. But don't rely on rote memorization to sharpen public speaking skills. When you memorize a speech, losing your place even for a second can make you feel too overwhelmed to recover and transition to the next topic.

By speaking out loud, you can pinpoint the areas where you tend to stumble or forget your thoughts. Use these observations to come up with mental cues to get your speech back on track so you don't forget key phrases, rather than simply succumbing to those terrifying moments of memory loss.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids provide a focal point for your audience, but they also serve as an outline for your talking points. When you’re anxious or circling around your topic, use visual aids to find a natural way to bring up the next idea.

Rationalize Your Fears Away

If you lack confidence in your public speaking skills, try getting to the root of your fears by asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Maybe you envision yourself becoming overwhelmed with nausea, completely freezing up or being laughed off the stage. Consider the probability of those outcomes and the possible ways to cope with them.

For example, tell yourself that you’re surrounded by colleagues and employers who value your professional contribution. Also, keep in mind that many of your peers are fighting the same battle to improve public speaking skills, and they may support and sympathize with you rather than judge you or laugh. Think rationally and remove the fear of failure by setting a flexible, attainable goal for your presentation, such as promising to continue speaking despite nerves. Sticking to that goal helps you navigate through rough patches and focus on the ways you improved, not spend time criticizing every minor flaw.

Cater to Your Audience

Whether you’re speaking to your everyday colleagues or a room filled with strangers, tailor your presentation to the professional goals and interests of your audience. You may think your public speaking skills are poor when you fail to get an enthusiastic response from the audience, but in reality, your content may come across as irrelevant or dry. If you’re speaking to an upper-level administrative staff, don’t waste time on topics more suited to entry-level professionals. Avoid reading your visual aids line by line, which can make your presentation seem dull and unengaging.

The most important public speaking tip you should remember is to be confident, but not expect perfection. Remove the pressure of having flawless public speaking skills, and focus on showing up with a personal appearance and presentation you feel proud of.

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