Terrified of public speaking? You’re not alone! According to research, 70% of adults report facing communication anxiety and it’s likely that we’ve all worried about public speaking at some point in our lives. I’m no exception, even though I teach public speaking for a living – and I’ve overcome the fear of public speaking myself. Whatever sector you work in, it’s an indispensable professional skill. Want to improve your public speaking? Here’s what I’ve learned…
We fear fear itself
Most of our fear is that people will notice that we’re nervous. Largely that’s not true. Whilst we may feel like a quivering wreck, the audience see maybe 20% of our nerves. That’s because you’re standing inside your body feeling all those wobbles, whereas the audience are outside your body, not really thinking about you. Audience members are thinking more about themselves than they are about you.
Nerves are actually helpful
The speakers I coach are best when they have a twinge of nerves. It’s what keeps the buzz in public speaking. When speakers have no nerves, I can see that they’ve become complacent and they do a less good job.
Nerves dissolve when we focus on the audience
Whilst we’re focusing on ourselves it’s possible to feel self conscious and awkward. But if you stop thinking about yourself and ask yourself a question about the audience you’ll find that there are more people than just you in the room. The more you focus on your audience, the better you’ll do at pleasing them too – it’s a win-win!
Perfect is not the point
Nervous speakers love to over-prepare, it’s a way of controlling a scary situation. If I can just do it right, then they’ll like and accept me as a speaker. But the deal is that perfection isn’t what impresses an audience. We don’t care whether or not you remembered 35 or 36 of your 38 key points. What we want is a human connection with our speaker, which means you can make mistakes and you can be a bit messy, so long as we see that you’re being authentic.
Find a purpose that’s bigger than your fear
Ultimately to overcome nerves you need a reason for speaking that’s bigger than your fear. Think of Gandhi – he was incredibly socially anxious as a young lawyer in South Africa, yet he carried his nation to freedom. That’s because his purpose was bigger than his fear. To truly overcome your nerves, you need to see public speaking not as a horrible thing to get through, but as an act of leadership that you will take up in order to help others. Doesn’t that sound more like something you could do?
How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is available to buy online here. Whatever the occasion, whatever the content, whatever the situation, this book will teach you everything you need to know to plan, prepare and deliver any speech or presentation and will give you the skills to deliver it with style, wit, charm and confidence. Discover expert tips, tricks, tools and techniques that will help you build on skills and abilities you already have so you can stand up in front of any audience and really wow them.