Lights, Camera, Action! 6 Tips on How to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

For some, the fear of public speaking (or Glossophobia) is something we fear more than death. Hard to imagine, but the reason lies in our distant past and our evolution as social animals.

At a primal level, we’re afraid of being rejected from a social group, left to defend ourselves on our own. Back in time, getting kicked out of our group meant certain death when faced with a wide range of predators.

The fear of public speaking is very common and is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Many occupations that involve working in front of an audience are also affected including performers, athletes, musicians and teachers.

Faced with these odds, how can the average person get over this seemingly universal fear?

Here are 6 tips to ensure your next performance is a great one:

1. Practice Makes Perfect

When you choose or are given a topic, remember you are the expert. The audience is there to learn or to be entertained so practice your material. They

will sense if you’re not prepared and their reaction might make you more nervous. Practice your speech over and over again. If possible, rehearse with a few friends or trusted colleagues to get some feedback. Everyone is nervous, but by practicing you’re able to put your butterflies in formation.

2. Figure out the Logistics in Advance

Check out the venue in advance and arrive early the day of the speech. Figure out how the room will be laid out. Do a dry run to be sure all the equipment is working properly. If the speech is at a hotel or event venue, introduce yourself to key staff members. This will help if something goes wrong along the way.

3. Don’t Memorize

Seasoned speakers will tell you not to memorize your speech. Rehearse your key talking points (a total of three is recommended) and develop your points around them without memorizing word for word. All too often people with memorized speeches mess up if they forget even one word leaving them frozen on stage. Even if you deliver a perfectly memorized speech, you risk sounding like a robot and can alienate audience members. Be authentic to be sure you deliver the best possible experience for your audience.

4. Visualize Your Success

Numerous studies by neuroscientists show that imagining a series of images produces the same physiological responses as looking at the images. Countless self-help books have also been written about the benefits of visualization to ensure success in business and in life.

As a speaker, you can benefit from this power by imagining yourself succeeding onstage. Picture yourself performing the speech and connecting with the audience. How do you feel? What facial expressions do you see on audience members? Imagine yourself delivering the speech with ease. See yourself as a great storyteller. On the day of the speech, you’ll feel as if you’ve done this a million times before and your audience will sense it too.

5. Monitor the Audience

While giving a speech it’s essential to see how the audience is reacting. If they look confused, adjust your pacing and slow down. If they look bored, change your speed or tone and add some inflection to your voice. Or use some hand gestures. Success at public speaking means you have to connect with an audience and remain flexible to ensure the best possible experience.

6. Find Support

There are several organizations that offer public speaking education and support. One of the best and most successful global organizations is Toastmasters International. Toastmasters offers weekly meetings in a supportive and interactive environment. Participants complete workbooks and are able to achieve designations in both speaking and leadership skills. Toastmasters also challenges people to step out of their comfort zone and participate in contests or volunteer their time as a conference speaker or board executive.