Stage Fright: 13 Tips for Overcoming Your
Fear of Public Speaking
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking and it affects a surprising number of adults. The statistics show that women are more likely to fear public speaking than men, with 75 per cent of women citing a fear.
Social anxiety can hold back careers and cause missed opportunities. Since public speaking is an important professional skill, shedding your fear of being under the spotlight could be a great career move.
Follow these tips to pull off a true crowd pleaser...
- Examine your fear
In order to overcome a phobia, you need to first understand it. Some fears stem from childhood experiences, while other people are simply afraid of the unknown. You might fear embarrassment or facing rejection from your peers. Either way, it is difficult to overcome glossophobia until you understand its roots.
Speaking to your doctor or a therapist may help this process in severe cases. If you tremble or panic at the thought of speaking in public, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is just one of the treatment options.
- Learn from the professionals
When you struggle with public speaking, it is easy to envy those who seem wholly at ease on the stage. You might ask why some people seem to struggle so little.
However, public speaking is an art like any other. Many great speakers have worked for years to polish their skills – with practice, you could do the same.
Booking a professional through a bureau such as Speakers Corner allows you to secure a professional delivery while learning from the greats - it also takes the immediate pressure off you if you’re not yet ready to speak on a big stage at an important event.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be a useful tool for controlling your fears. This type of meditation encourages us to pay more attention to the present moment, helping to prevent thoughts from taking too much control of our behaviour.
Practice noticing the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and sensations around you. Watch your thoughts as though they are mental events and try to stay grounded in the present moment.
- Warm up
When the time comes to tackle a public speech, it is important to warm up, first. Stretch out your body and mind before the big moment. Vocal warm-up exercises can help your voice to stay amplified. Try octave scales, tongue trills or lip buzzing.
- Start small
Face your fears in a controlled environment to get used to the experience of speaking in front of a crowd. You might start with a family member, before progressing to a group of friends or colleagues. Practice makes perfect, after all.
- Plan thoroughly
When you have a big speech in mind, it is important to plan ahead for a confidence boost on the day. Define the purpose of your talk and think about the audience you want to entertain.
- Write a killer speech
No matter the purpose of your speech, your message needs to be intricately woven together for the perfect flow. Remember: the audience is extremely unlikely to judge you. They care much more about what you have to say.
Whether you are delivering a business pitch, a wedding speech or performing stand-up comedy, a good script can make you ooze confidence. Research to get good ideas and don’t shy away from throwing a few jokes in. Give yourself enough time to get this part right and it’ll aid your confidence.
- Memorise everything
Memorising your speech is a must. Never skip this step – commit every word to memory, no matter how long it takes. Your bullet points should be nothing more than guides to keep you on track.
- Use breathing techniques
The moments before you take the stage are often the most stress-inducing. Breathing exercises can help you to reduce the immediate stresses.
Stand up straight, with hands at your sides. Breathe in and count three seconds – your diaphragm should expand. Then, exhale slowly.
- Take your time
Don’t rush your speech. If you feel anxiety setting in, slow things down. Try to speak at a pace that’s slightly slower than normal conversation.
- Make eye contact
By making eye contact, you connect with your audience. It helps to establish rapport and it makes you look confident – even when you feel anything but.
- Get interactive
If speaking solidly for thirty minutes still sounds deeply unappealing, don’t be afraid to break things up. Get the audience involved in a quiz, throw on a short film or hand out props.
As long as it’s fun and relevant, your audience will go along with you.
- Take the essentials
Finally, arrive to your speech prepared. Leave in good time and don’t forget to take everything you need. Some speakers like to carry a prop – like a pen – to keep them grounded.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated and carry notes that will jog your memory if need be.