For nearly all of us, regardless of how many times we’ve spoken in public, we still experience the same nervousness and anxiety before we address an audience. This is very common, and very normal. It’s what all speakers experience to one degree or another.
But, if not addressed, this fear of public speaking will significantly impact your ability to perform at your very best and achieve the objectives of your speech or presentation.
As a public speaking coach who has helped hundreds of clients deliver more powerful and effective speeches, I’ve learned that fear of public speaking can be overcome by applying the proper techniques to address the fear where it starts–in your mind.
Know what’s important
I challenge every client to: Change your perspective. Change your expectations. Change your results. This means to start by looking at your speech or presentation from your audience’s perspective—versus your own. You will then see that many of the things you consider important (and thus stressful) are not important to your audience. Believe me, the vast majority of the people in your audience really don’t care if you stumble over a word or two, if you use your hands a lot or if your socks don’t match.
What they do care about is you, your purpose, your vision and your ideas. They want to be enlightened and inspired. They want to make a human connection.
So, the first step in overcoming your fear is to look at every speech and presentation not as a difficult task to be completed, but rather as an incredible opportunity to connect with—and provide something of value to—your audience.
Focus on what you can control
Another technique I share with my clients is called, Confidence Through Control. What often causes the greatest anxiety in speakers is the feeling of powerlessness over what is happening. But, the reality is that you control just about every aspect of your speech, including:
- What you say
- How you say it
- Your pace and dynamics
- Where you stand on stage
- When and how you move
And the things that are outside of your control? There is nothing you can do about them, so why let them affect your performance?
Bust your boundaries
“Practice makes perfect.” This might sound cliché, but in all my years as a public speaking coach, I’ve found there is no substitute for practice. Now here’s the twist: Whenever you rehearse, push the boundaries of your performance. Practice being louder, softer, more enthusiastic, more commanding–more anything–than you think you can. It’s not about being over the top when you’re on stage; it’s about being in control. Just like an opera singer, you need to stretch and develop your “instrument” before taking the stage.
Make it a strength
In the end, however, fear of public speaking is not something to be eliminated, but embraced. It’s a real emotion that has the power to both drive you to higher levels of performance and make a deeper, more honest connection with your audience.