5 ways to conquer your fear of public speaking
The fear of public speaking seems real until you take it by the horns. The first time I spoke in public was at church one Wednesday evening. We had a midweek service and one of our teens Pastors jokingly said “You’ll be leading on Wednesday”. I took it lightly, though I prepared for it somewhat. It was terrible.
This is what happened: my hands were sweaty and shaky so much that my bible fell. I couldn’t read a word of what I had prepared and to make matters worse, an acquaintance smiled and made this comment after the service, “You did well”. What I still don’t know is if he really thought I did well or if it was to mock me. Let’s look at some other signs that you need to learn to overcome your fear of public speaking now!
5 signs your public speaking is almost non-existent.
1. Your mouth quickly gets dry
It’s normal for your mouth to dry up when speaking. You’d realise speakers often take short breaks to drink water, especially during long presentations or discussions. However, if the few words that escape from your mouth leave your mouth feeling like the Kalahari Desert, then it’s a clear sign you need to do more in the area of public speaking.
2. You’re extremely anxious
Again, anxiety is normal, especially in the first few minutes but controlling it is what matters. Only you should know you’re nervous. It must not tell on you. Yes, I know…fake it till you make it.
3. You easily get distracted by someone or something in the audience
That’s what anxiety does. If anyone laughs in the audience, you think they’re laughing at you: If they look away, then they’re not listening and if they are attentive, you think the earth should open and swallow you.
4. You fidget too many times
In my case, I had a bible in my hand, and it fell. For you, it could be a pointer for your presentation, a pencil or pen.
5. You don’t make eye contact
The essence of communication is to connect. To connect, you need to make eye contact. Imagine speaking to someone who keeps staring at the ceiling or the floor.
READ MORE :Glossophobia – The fear of public speaking
Why you need public speaking skills
You cannot escape it if you should fulfil your purpose in life. It is a must.
It improves your communication skills.
It serves as an important tool for network/growth.
It allows us to share ideas, influence people, positively and learn new things.
What you’ve been doing wrong
1. Reading your presentation throughout.
It’s not a reading contest. Your audience can read, don’t be a voice note of your presentation or speech. People don’t listen, most of the time.
2. Spending too much time explaining the background or the basics.
We deal with time, people’s time, and you have to put your points across in a concise yet detailed manner.
3. Write everything you need to say.
This tempts you to read throughout, and even when there’s a mistake, you don’t realise it. You just can’t wait to get off that platform. WRONG!
4. Little or no preparation before D-day.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If you prepare well, few people notice when you make a mistake. It’s better to prepare and not deliver because something came up than to not prepare and embarrass yourself.
5. Repeating words or phrases, especially when you make a mistake.
As a beginner, if the audience keeps correcting you for pronouncing particular words, don’t go back too many times. You’ll probably make the same mistake in your next sentence, and they’ll soon learn to accept it till your presentation ends. It could just be tension, and you don’t have all day. Just go on, don’t focus on what else you may get wrong.
Factors to consider to overcome your fear of public speaking
You don’t speak to different segments of people the same way. Children, persons with disabilities, factory workers, managers and students need tailor-made speeches or communication. Consider the following:
1. Be physically prepared
Be there on time. Dress well. Wear comfortable, yet appropriate clothes and shoes, not necessarily new ones or expensive ones. Keep a hairstyle that really suits you. Avoid eating anything that may trigger an allergy or make you want to use the bathroom badly.
2. Be sincere.
Apologize if you arrive late and say why you did so. If you feel nervous if it’s your first time or you think you may pronounce certain names or words wrongly, ask to be pardoned ahead of time. If there’s a question asked and you don’t know the answer, just say you haven’t thought of it that way or you’ll find out. Don’t brush it off or embarrass yourself by some knowledgeable professor or witch in the audience.
3. Know your audience
Change the tone for children, teenagers and adults. If possible, throw in a few local words, pidgin or use phrases they can relate to.
4. Know your topic for the day well.
People can tell when you know your stuff. Relate the topic with what they’re familiar with. This will prove useful if your presentation goes off due to a power outage during your speech or for some other technical reasons. If possible, print copies of your speech for the audience.
5. Jot the most important points down, on paper or in your presentation.
With children, you need to use colourful pictures, short video clips and pictures and reduce the words in your presentation. For adults, you may need practical illustrations, charts or maps. It’s easier to get their undivided attention like this.
6. Practice as many times as it flows more naturally.
Practice your points, allocating time for yourself. Look in the mirror and let it flow more naturally.
7. Don’t say all there is to know about the topic.
Give your audience room to yearn for more, to ask questions. You don’t have the luxury of time, and participation makes people connect more. You’ll have an idea if it went well or not.
8. Make eye contact, even if it’s for a few seconds with each sentence you make.
You don’t need to stare at everyone in the audience. You need to stare long enough at the top of their heads (LOL, I do that all the time, and it works!)
9. Be relaxed, take a deep breath before you begin.
Once you’re on stage, you’re in charge. Smiling often helps calm your nerves.
READ ALSO: How to prepare effectively for an interview
WATCH THIS VIDEO and learn:
How I overcame my fear of public speaking
At the end of the day, you’ll realise that the fear of public speaking is all a facade. Once you’re the one addressing the people, you’re in charge. All the best in your next presentation or speech. Own it!