How To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
Effective tips that helped me get over my fear of speaking in public.
Full disclosure, I used to be terrified to speak in front of a crowd. Just thinking about my public speaking course in college still makes my palms sweat. I remember vividly standing up and walking to the podium while my heart pounded to deliver my first speech. My college professor sat in the back of the classroom with his notepad, watching me with a stern eye and critically analyzing my every move. Somehow, I made it through that speech (and many others) that semester and ended up with a B+ in the class.
Now, over ten years later, I'm still not a huge fan of public speaking, but I've learned how to better manage my anxiety around speaking publicly. I'm at a point in my career where I have to communicate to large audiences often. So, for me, there's no getting around public speaking. Moreover, public speaking is now a challenge that I embrace. I still get nervous before a speech, and occasionally, I'll give a subpar presentation. However, I'm aware that I'm continually improving as a public speaker, and my number one rule is to relax. Below are five tips that I've implemented to ease my fear of speaking in public.
1) Join Toastmasters
Toastmasters International is excellent for anyone looking to improve their public speaking skills. I've been an active member for two years, and Toastmasters has been the most effective outlet to help combat my fear of public speaking. Toastmasters offers a safe environment that allows you to take on various roles from a speaker, evaluator, and Toastmaster of the Day. By taking on these meeting roles, I've learned how to prepare a good speech and how to host a meeting and effectively evaluate other speakers.
2) Start a Podcast
Becoming a podcaster is a great way to work on writing speeches and delivering communications effectively. Having a podcast also helps improve your ability to research and present various sides of an argument.
3) Take Opportunities to Speak
If you want to improve your public speaking skills at work, ask your manager if you can deliver a presentation at your next staff meeting. Do volunteer work? Write down a concept and pitch your idea to your community service group. Take any and every opportunity you can to speak in front of the crowd.
4) Observe Other Speakers
Delivering a speech is similar to performing. When you watch other speakers and evaluate their speaking etiquette and best practices, it will give you ideas and help you prepare for your speeches.
For example, on Sunday mornings, I regularly carve out time to listen to a specific preacher's sermon. I'm not a religious person, but I enjoy observing his vocal inflections, body language, and content. I do this also with political debates and addresses. I find this tactic beneficial as I always pick up on useful tools to improve the delivery of my speeches.
5) Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
When you have a speech or presentation scheduled, REHEARSE. Rehearse in the bathroom when you're getting ready in the morning and in the car while you're on your way to work. I have a shameless tendency to drive my mother and friends nuts when I'm rehearsing a speech because I'll ask them to listen to it numerous times (sorry, not sorry) until I feel prepared. REHEARSE as much as you can until you feel comfortable.