When Franklin D. Roosevelt said that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, it’s easy to believe that he was referring to anyone who’s had to give a speech. If you relate to this, you’re in good company – 75% of the population, even top performers, celebrities, and business professionals, get anxious about public speaking. So don’t sweat it; you can overcome society’s greatest fear with ease.
It’s All About Them
A large part of your fear of public speaking comes from the focus you put on yourself. You may have “what if” questions running through your mind, like, “What if I mess up?”, “What if I forget what I was going to say?”, “What if no one is interested?”, or “What if they don’t like me?” There’s a surefire way to silence these self-sabotaging voices, and that’s by recognizing that the speech is for the audience, it’s not about you. Ask yourself: who is my audience? What are their needs? What did they come here for? What do they want to gain from this experience? Why do they want to hear from me? Your nerves will calm when you shift the focus onto the audience and your value to them, and genuinely care about their needs.
Connect with Your Audience
What if you shifted your mindset from presenting to your audience, to having a conversation with your peers? It would improve your mood, as well as the way you interact, your body language, your voice, your rate of speech, your word choice, and your comfort level. It would establish a bond of trust with your audience and make you more relatable, leaving them more inclined to hear and understand your message. It would also raise the overall energy in the room. Address everyone in the room by acknowledging them in your speech. Share personal stories, if appropriate. Find common ground. Encourage participation. Ask questions, and take them as well. Scan the room and maintain eye contact with individuals that are engaged. Close the gap between yourself and your audience; you’re in this together.
Being prepared helps to ensure that your presentation will run smoothly. Consider asking “the 5 Ws”: who, what, where, when, and why? In addition to understanding your audience, learn the answers to the following: Where is the venue? What are the logistics of the room? What are your audio/visual needs? How long is your speech? Anticipate what’s required ahead of time and make adjustments as necessary. Research, rehearse, and time your presentation appropriately. Do vision exercises before the presentation and envision yourself as a success.
Know That You’ve Got This
You’re qualified to give this presentation – own it! Be authentic. The audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect or that you know everything. They don’t expect you to conform or go out of your way to impress them. In fact, they want to see the real you. Be sincere. Share your unique set of skills, knowledge, and experiences. If you make a mistake, be okay with it. And don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to something. Relax. Breathe. Pace yourself. Believe in yourself. Be genuinely grateful for the experience. Be confident, embrace who you are, and have the conviction that you have a valuable and powerful message to share.
Lourita Leu-Shing | Contributing Writer