So many of us fear standing up in front of an audience. The truth is I know that the thought of speaking on stage with droves of people staring at you makes you feel like you want to run away. Some would like to vanish in thin air. Pffft! Gone, just like that. (To escape the dreaded fear of public speaking).
I know the feeling. I’ve gone through it many many times in my life. You see since my early twenties, I’ve stood up in many gatherings holding a mic and have been given the task of being the master of ceremonies (I was a DJ/radio presenter/talk show host in the early part of my career life). “Master of ceremonies”—oh that title—just the sound of it gives me the creeps. It connotes that whatever happens in the affair (the bad ones in particular) will be blamed on you! If the crown of the prom queen is not ready during the coronation portion, all people will be staring at you—not at the script writer—and be blaming you for the mishap. Tall order, right?
It is, but you can make public speaking worthwhile, or at least make it less intimidating. Just follow the tips below and you’ll be fine.
1. Be aware and accept that you’re scared.
If you acknowledge that you’re scared then you have done the first step towards controlling this fear. Upon accepting it you can take steps to address your fear. On the other hand, if you don’t admit it, you’re far from solving the problem. But once you’re aware and accept the truth, the problem is 50% solved. Right upon acceptance that you dread public speaking, you can take the steps to help you cope with it.
2. Encourage yourself.
Remind yourself that you’re not the only one having this problem. Heck, it’s the number one fear in the world! Millions of people around the world are as fearful as you are about standing up and speaking before an audience. Tell yourself that being nervous before and during the talk is normal, which is a fact. You must also remember that if you prepare well, you will be fine. Keep on telling yourself ’til it will sink in, that you’ll do your assignment, you’ll research, you’ll practice several times, and because you’ve done all that you’ll be great as a speaker.
3. Prepare thoroughly.
You dread giving a talk because you’re not sure you will be able to speak about your topic. Ok, here’s what works for a radio and TV guy who has worked in the field for almost 2 decades: grab a piece of paper and pen (encode it in your fave App if you prefer) and start writing down what you’ll speak about. Do your assignment. As an example, I’ll discuss the simplest speaking assignment anyone can ever have–introducing someone in an event. (The most common scenario is you’ll introduce the main speaker. Be wise; make an appointment with the person right away. Sit down with her to find out directly from her how she wants to be introduced. As you talk, you’ll be able to observe with your own eyes how she is as a person and you can get info directly from her. This is way better than getting secondhand info from other sources. You will also discover right from her her achievements, important events in her life, and her credentials pertinent to the event she was invited for. When you’re done with this step, you’re good as done. Preparation is the key to a successful talk.
4. Research like your talk depends on it.
Say you’re assigned to speak about blogging. The wisest step to take is to recall all the lessons you have learned from your years of blogging. Rather than researching from the Net, talking about your own experiences will make your talk more convincing. There’s nothing more compelling and more effective than sharing your own real life experiences. The authenticity of the things you’ll be tackling will definitely touch your audience in a very special way. The info you give is genuine. You are genuine. This will make your talk powerful.Look for more invaluable information about your topic from other sources. Study them well. Then pick circumstances from your own life and connect those with the info you have dug out. In case you’re given a longer time to prepare, you might decide to interview another expert in your topic. This way, you can spice things up with the bits and pieces of gems from the other expert. Your goal is to become a blogging expert prior to the engagement. When you’re finally ready to embrace the spotlight, you’ll rock the house.
5. Practice ’til you drop.
Like in every skill you want to perfect, you have to practice your speech well and thoroughly if you want to truly engage your audience. The best way to go is once you accepted a speaking assignment, find out how much time you are given to prepare. That way when you’re through writing and polishing your speech and it’s printed, it’s time to practice like your life depended on it. Make time for your practice sessions like you make time for dinner with your family (I mean, be committed to practice). The more you practice, the more you will become adept at your speech, and in general at public speaking.
6. Visualize your crowd is wearing nothing.
The fear of public speaking is related to the fear of criticism. In other words, it is related to the fear of being judged by other people. To this, I have an amusing solution. I learned it when I was still in my teens training to become a radio Disc-Jockey. ( Don’t forget if you are a DJ, you also automatically become an event host).
The trick is this (it doesn’t work for some people, but to me, it works perfectly): Visualize you’re delivering your speech to a crowd wearing nothing but their underwear! Imagine that scene. Do your best to be see it like it’s actually what you’re seeing. (If you’re like me, this specific step will determine whether you’ll succeed or not in your task). I bet, if you do this properly, even before starting you’ll be smiling and feeling more relaxed, and ready to own the stage. Add to this, it will naturally dawn on you that the best way to take the challenge is to feel at ease and to not take yourself too seriously.
Upon hitting the stage and the spot light is on you, take 3 long and deep breaths, then say hello to your audience, and flash your best smile. (Don’t miss this step. Smiling will signal your brain that you’re doing well and confident). In case you’re still nervous after doing those steps, don’t focus on the nervousness, instead proceed to saying your first two lines. You’ll be confident delivering those (after all, you made it a point to memorize them by heart during your practice sessions). After that, move on to telling a joke you have prepared 3 months ago (well, that’s exaggerated but you can see the point, right?) which you have practiced delivering with your family and your closest friends.
Usually, when you have made your audience laugh, your part in the event will feel casual and it would feel that way all the way through the last words you’ll utter. The truth is, after the first few laughs, your speech will glide smoothly like a professional is delivering it.