Does the thought of public speaking scare you? Do you get nervous and forget what you wanted to say in front of your audience? Have you had to dismiss any speaking opportunities because you get conscious on the stage? If you have, then you’re not the only one. Every famous speaker has faced their fears of public speaking and overcame stage fright to become an eminent speaker of all time.
The Chapman University Survey of American Fears found that 28.4% of Americans fear public speaking, and this fear is more common than the fear of:
- Aging, etc.
The survey had no less than 1,541 American adult participants. They were asked to rate 88 fear factors from 10 different fear domains on a scale from 1 to 4. These domains ranged from crime, disasters, and personal anxiety to government, technology, and more.
The results brought public speaking on the same line with robots replacing the workforce, drought, illegal immigration, grid attacks, and even global warming.
There is a vast difference between these fears, though: while it is difficult, if not impossible, to stop technology, bring about rain, seal the country’s borders, or reverse global warming, it is relatively easy to improve public speaking skills.
What Is Stage Fright?
Stage fright is the state of anxiety where a performer has difficulty delivering their work in front of the audience. It is also called “Performance Anxiety,” where an individual has recurring anxieties while delivering a public speech.
Millions of people have experienced stage fear at some point in time, be it in school, college, or even at the workplace. In most cases, individuals may not be able to process their thoughts, or their minds stop responding completely whenever on the stage.
In short, stage fright is about the fear of expressing yourself to a broad audience. It could be on either social media or real-life speaking events.
Symptoms Of Stage Fright
- Physiological Level: Nausea, sweating, chills, dry mouth, dizziness, and increased heartbeat.
- Cognitive Level: Fear of speaking, failure, and judgment.
- Behavioral Level: Stuttering and frequent uses of filter words.
Causes Of Stage Fright
- Overthinking and overanalyzing about the end outcome.
- Always trying to achieve perfectionism.
- You are underestimating your strengths and capabilities.
- Giving high importance to other’s opinions.
How To Overcome Stage Fear And Improve Your Public Speaking Skills?
The fact that you acknowledge your fear of public speaking means you are one step closer to overcoming it. Now, you need to understand your fear, relax, and take baby steps to improve your public speaking skills.
Take it from someone who wrote school plays but never found the courage to act in them, wrote award-winning essays but lost her voice when it came to reading them in front of a broad audience, wrote hundreds of poems but never found the courage to read them out loud or show them to someone else.
It took me years to overcome my anxiety and find my voice, but I did, and I’ll share my tips on how to overcome stage fears with you.
Here are the steps you need to take to improve your public speaking skills.
1. Question Yourself Before Preparing
Framing the right questions beforehand gives you a clear perspective about the subject you want to talk about. Understanding your target audience and their purpose will ensure that you stick to the main topic while delivering your talk.
You can begin with the following questions.
- Who is my audience?
- What are the goals for this event?
- What is the audience’s purpose?
- Are they looking for inspiration?
- Do you want to motivate them with your ideas?
- Are they looking up to you as a subject matter expert or a keynote speaker?
2. Identify the Cause of Your Fear of the Audience
- What part of public speaking scares you the most?
- Are you worried you’ll forget what you have to say?
- Do you fear your audience will judge and laugh at you?
Well, low self-esteem is one of the major causes of these tiny voices at the back of your mind. If you didn’t have what it takes, you wouldn’t be where you are. Even if your fear is justified, wouldn’t it be best to know where you stand than live wondering what could have happened?
If you follow your instincts and do your best, you will nail that presentation, and the audience will love it.
When things go wrong, and you make mistakes, don’t worry. You might still learn from them and improve your public speaking or presentation skills and strategies. Giving up is not an option. If you back down now, you’ll regret the road not taken!
3. Take a Step Back, Breathe Deeply, and Relax
You’re only hurting yourself when you’re causing a storm in a glass of water. It is time to take a break, relax, and gather your thoughts. If you don’t know how to do it, try the five stress-relief techniques.
Once you relieve some of the stress and relax a little, everything will seem more manageable, and the solutions to your problems will pop-up by themselves.
4. Review Your Presentation and Make Sure It Meets These Basic Requirements!
I’m sure your presentation is thorough and built around valuable ideas. However, its success will depend on several features that have nothing to do with figures, beliefs, or business concepts.
A short presentation highlights every idea on point to convince and conquer the audience well within no time.
People tend to lose their patience and interest if a presentation drags for a longer time. You can use a simple, straightforward, 6th grader language to make sure everyone can understand and keep up with it.
Stick To A Simple Sandwich Formula: Benefits, Costs, And Benefits.
- Start by showing your audience what they stand to gain by listening to you and giving your ideas a chance.
- Continue by illustrating your ideas as briefly and clearly as possible. Don’t hesitate to use real-life examples or scenarios to prove your point, but ensure they are relevant to the subject at hand.
- End by restating the benefits and informing your audience what they need to do to obtain those benefits. If you can, create a sense of urgency, and give them reasons to act now rather than wait or think about it.
5. Get to Know Your Audience
The more you know about your audience, the easier it is to anticipate their reaction and to stop considering them the enemy. Knowing their likes or dislikes can help you include jokes in your presentation to resonate well with them through strategically chosen case studies.
However, don’t take everything you hear about them for granted. Remember that they are people just like you, with their fears, projects, and hopes for the future at the end of the day.
It helps to personalize your presentation according to their preferences, but without compromising the features.
Also, consider revealing your fear of public speaking because, judging by the survey findings cited above, quite a few members of your audience will share, understand, and empathize with your fear.
6. Analyze, Practice, And Master Your Presentation
Memorizing your presentation isn’t a good idea to overcome fear since there’s a chance of forgetting parts of it due to stage fright. Instead, make sure every word, every thought in it is yours, and everything you say is true to your beliefs.
This way, even if you forget, you’ll be able to explain everything to your audience in your own words, answer their questions, and chase away any doubt.
I’m not saying your jitters will disappear if you practice, but you will get better at it, and your self-confidence will improve.
It would surely help to practice in front of an audience, so don’t hesitate to gather your colleagues, superiors, employees, or friends and family and ask for their help, as long as it does not mean sharing confidential information.
7. Improve The Pitch Of Your Voice
A strong voice is a sign of confidence. Hence, improving the pitch of your voice will reflect your confidence and grit to the audience. Stage fear mostly manifests into a shaky voice in an individual while performing, and overcoming this obstacle requires a tad bit of practice.
For example, minimizing the use of fluff words like Ummm after every sentence show others that what you are talking about has a firm conviction.
You can brush up the pitch of your voice by
- Enrolling in a speech class.
- Practicing speaking in front of the mirror.
- Breathing from your belly and not from the chest while talking.
- Using hand gestures to express yourself in a more precise way.
8. Watch TED Talks
If you feel awry about public speaking, taking inspiration from TED talks is always a great idea.
Not only do you get the motivation to get over the stage fright, but you also get the insights and learnings that some prominent speakers have implemented themselves in their public speaking journey.
You can also note that most TED talks start with storytelling, instantly connecting you with the audience.
9. Volunteer At Smaller Speaking Events Before Heading To A Big Stage
Volunteering at the smaller speaking event allows you to showcase your speaking skills to a limited number of audiences, and it’s a wise choice to opt for before you go for a big audience. This will get you familiar with the audience interaction, which is the base foundation of any speaking skills.
To make it easier, you can start by:
- Enrolling in a toastmaster club.
- Giving sessions at your workplace.
- Organize a speaking club at your school or college.
10. Be Yourself, Don’t Fake
Embracing your vulnerabilities with a smile is a skill that every speaker has mastered while being on the stage. There might be moments where you’ll have to take pauses in between the talk but not let your stance waiver.
Audiences love authenticity.
Being your authentic self is one of the best ways to click with your audience. Ensure that you have a smile throughout the session and shrug off any mistakes that may happen.
11. Make Eye Contact
Your eye contact determines your confidence about the subject you’re communicating to the others.
Eye contact is an essential body language that is not restricted to public speaking but also in different professional fields. It helps you bond with the other person on a deeper level as the neurons that shine in your brain switch on the neurons of someone else’s mind too.
Never undervalue the power of eye contact as it leaves a lasting impression in the minds of your audience.
12. Record Or Film Your Speech
You can record yourself in front of the camera or while making presentations at your school or workplace to improve your public speaking skills.
The recording makes you aware of the area you may need to improve, and it’s a cost-effective method too if you cannot afford to hire a speech coach.
A Word From AlignThoughts,
Overcoming the fear of public speaking and being on stage needs time and patience. Perhaps, things won’t even work out correctly the first time, but you’ll learn from your mistakes and get better with continuous practice.
When you do, let me know how the above advice worked out for you, and feel free to share any other tips and tricks in a comment. Good luck!
Keep empowering yourself by subscribing to us; it’s free. Do not miss the chance!
Key Takeaways To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
- Stage fright is a type of anxiety, also known as Performance Anxiety, where an individual has difficulty performing in front of other people.
- The symptoms of stage fear vary in different levels like physiological, cognitive, and behavioral.
- Overthinking, perfectionism, undervaluing your strengths- all these are the common causes of stage fear.
- According to a study, 73% population has a fear of public speaking.
- By acknowledging the fear of public speaking, you can take steps to overcome stage fear.
- You can start with a set of questions that involve your audience, the event’s goals, and the purpose behind your talk.
- Later, start with identifying the cause of your fear and go to the root problem.
- For instance, your fear can be associated with a fear of judgment and not being good enough.
- Take a deep breath and relax as breathing exercises before the event calms down the mind and body.
- Review your presentation and ensure that even a 6th-grade child can understand it.
- Sticking to the simple sandwich formula, i.e., benefits, costs, and benefits, can effectively deliver your message to the audience.
- Taking help from a voice coach can improve the pitch of your vocal sound.
- Similarly, you can practice speaking in front of the mirror and breath from the belly and not the chest.
- Take inspiration from TED talks and imitate their speaking style at home.
- You can also enroll in a local Toastmaster club or conduct speaking sessions at schools and colleges.
- Lastly, make eye contact, wear a smile, and do not forget to be your authentic self.
Why are public speaking skills necessary for growth?
- It promotes growth in a professional career.
- Imparts other essential skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, and leadership skills.
- Motivates and builds a community on credibility and authenticity.
What are the qualities of a good speaker?
These are some qualities that every good speaker has:
- High self-esteem.
- Passionate about their work.
- Evoke emotions in others through their words.
What is necessary to be an excellent public speaker?
- Effective communication skills.
- Active listening skills.
- Control over their voice.
- Good body language.
How to get good at public speaking?
- Identify your audience, the goals of the event, and the purpose behind your presentation.
- Practice in front of the mirror every day and ensure that your body is straight and upright.
- Enroll in a Toastmaster club or take one on one session from a mentor.
- See how eminent speakers talk at big events.
Apart from all these steps, the simple yet most pragmatic way to improve your speaking skills daily is by speaking up for yourself.
Here’s why and how to speak up for yourself. Check it out!