The thought of speaking in public brings fear into the minds of many people. It is more common than you may realize. If you have anxiety in other areas of your life, you are even more likely to suffer from this fear. Other reasons for fear of public speaking include worrying that you are going to mess up and look foolish in front of your peers, that you will be unable to answer questions that come up, or that you have nothing valuable to share.
No matter what your reasons for fear of public speaking are, here are some tips on how to improve your confidence to speak in public.
1. Start out with smaller groups
Whenever possible, begin by speaking to smaller groups. As your comfort and confidence grow, start speaking to larger groups.
2. Speak in front of groups of people frequently
Another tip is to speak to groups of people frequently, because the more often you do it, the better you get at it. Therefore, if you do not have any formal group presentations to do, you can still practice your public speaking in everyday life.
For example, you can practice simply by telling a story at the work lunch table, or by speaking at the PTA meeting. Be creative. The key is just to get out of your comfort zone, and do it.
3. Prepare ahead of time
If you will be doing a presentation to a group of people, be sure to prepare by writing out notes ahead of time, and even creating a PowerPoint if a laptop will be available. Then be sure to review and practice what you are going to say.
Do not try to memorize everything, because that is a sure way to cause yourself a great deal of stress and it will not look natural. Instead, be prepared to be flexible. You can do this by ensuring that you understand the information that you plan to present, and you know the intent and purpose of what you need to disseminate to the group.
You may even want to practice in front of your spouse or a friend to see if they can give you some constructive criticism and feedback.
4. Arrive early to set up
Nothing is worse than being rushed, and trying to set up when people are already arriving or waiting for you. By arriving early and making sure that the room and equipment are set up the way you want them to be, you will cut down on some of the stress and anxiety before you even begin speaking.
5. Include the group in the conversation
Be sure to interact actively with the group. Another benefit of arriving early is so that you can chat with those who also arrive early. You can find out a lot about the people who will be listening to you speak if you spend some time at the start finding out what their backgrounds are and what they hope to learn from you.
Throughout your presentation or speech, also be sure to include the group. You can ask them questions, and get them involved. You can record their answers on a dry erase board. You can bribe them to answer your questions by giving them chocolates or other freebies when they participate.
6. Quit thinking that you have to be perfect
If you are scared that you will stumble on your words or that you will make some other mistake, you need to remember that no one is perfect. In fact, people relate better with people who are imperfect. If you stumble or make a mistake, you need to be able to laugh at yourself and move on.
7. Start out strong
The start of any speech or presentation is always the most nerve wracking. Despite this, to appear confident, you want to start out with a strong, clear voice and demeanor to match. Stand up tall, make eye contact (if possible), and try not to rush. Eventually, as you see people responding positively to you, you will begin to relax more.
8. Look at the wall
It is always helpful to find those people in the room who are responding positively to you by nodding their heads or smiling at what you are saying. You can then make eye contact and direct your attention on those people.
If, however, the thought of that still scares you, begin by directing your attention on the wall at the back of the room, located just above the heads of those people sitting in the back row. As you relax, you can gradually increase your eye contact.
9. Admit it if you don’t know all the answers
If you are worried that you might not be able to answer a question posed by someone in the group, stop thinking that! Once again, if there is something that you do not know the answer to, do not be afraid to admit that. You can then pose the question to the audience to see if they have ideas that might answer the question. In addition, you can always tell the audience that you will look up the information later, and get it to them once you know the answer.
10. Quit thinking that everyone is completely focused on you
It is egocentric to think that everyone is looking at every part of you, listening to your every word, and just waiting for you to mess up. In fact, everyone else there has some of their own egocentricity happening. They may be thinking about how thirsty they are getting and when the next break is, or they may be thinking about what they are going to make for dinner that night. Therefore, if you are worried that you are going to make a mistake, it is time to stop.
If you put these ten tips to good use, you will be able to improve your confidence to speak in public.