There are many reasons so many people are terrified to speak in front of large groups of people. It can be daunting, and many of us have had bad experiences in the past, probably when we were kids. We can hold on to any experience we’ve had, and every time we go to speak, we may remember this “feeling state.” It is the recollection of this state that causes the fear we feel when speaking in front of crowds.
Picture the audience in their underwear. Pretend you are standing in front of a mirror. Pick a spot just above everyone’s head and focus your attention there. Everyone has their own advice for those that are afraid of speaking in public, as many of us are. While some people seem to be born standing and speaking in front of groups, a large percentage of people experience a crippling fear at the prospect. This fear can halt some careers, or prevent future successes. But while most of us believe it is the thought of being in front of so many people that causes us stress, in fact there may be something else triggering these emotions; a memory of a past experience.
We can probably all pin point a time from our childhood when we embarrassed ourselves in front of our peers; putting yourself out there when you are young can be terrifying and young kids are far from forgiving if you make a mistake. A bad experience when young can scar us for life. Eventually we get over the initial embarrassment and as we get older we store the memory away, along with the “feeling state” associated with the event. It is this state that comes back to us as we once again face the prospect of speaking in front of a group. We may not remember the specific event that caused us to feel like we do, but we definitely remember the fear.
Since these fears can resurface when asked to deliver a speech, a toast, or even a prayer at a family dinner, it is best to learn to control them. So, how do we control our fear if it is based on a forgotten experience? The simple answer is; practice. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be. But it is also important to recognize and understand the “feeling state” which causes us to feel the fear. Once we can understand, and then release the feelings that cause us stress, we can begin to alleviate the fear. Releasing the fear is a skill that must be learned, and of course practiced, but once mastered your comfort and confidence will increase naturally over time.
When it comes time for you to give a big speech, you might find yourself a bit nervous. Not everyone has a fear of public speaking, but for those that do, it can be frustrating. Preparing in advance, and writing a speech that you feel confident delivering, can help you cure your fear of public speaking. There are a few things that should be avoided when you write your speech.
Although these may appear to be simple things, making sure that your speech is free of them can make giving your speech a calmer process.
The first thing to consider when writing your speech is to not have any inappropriate humor in the speech. There is a time for humor, but never at the expense of anyone else. Jokes related to anyone’s sex, religious preference, political stance or gender are off the table.
Make sure your speech does not have any subtle put downs or condescending language against competitors. Some people are not comfortable trying to use humor in their speech. If you are one of these people, do not feel pressure to be funny.
Your speech should be a reflection of your unique personality and a place to put your best foot forward. Do not feel the pressure to make anyone laugh. You can be respected as a good speaker without using humor.
Make sure you use short, simple sentences when writing your speech. Long sentences with complex terms usually lose an audience. Shorter sentences are more easily understood. Also practice your voice and body language. Articulation, the use of a clean and crisp speaking pattern, is very important to being clearly understood.
Practice over articulating your words to be heard, and even doing some vocal warm ups. These things can help you feel more confident. Practice saying your speech with energy and feeling. When you practice your speech with confidence you will deliver it with confidence. The more warmth and enthusiasm you are able to exude, the more your audience will respond positively to you and your message. Remember to take deep breaths and smile often. Practice saying your points with feeling and emotion. Underline important points so you can remember to emphasize these words or topics.
Lastly, double check which microphone form you will be using. Some speeches are given with a lapel mike so that you can move freely and talk with your hands, while other speeches utilize a hand held or podium microphone. Practice using a microphone beforehand so that this can be an additional stressor removed from your plate.
When you prepare your speech in advance, you can enter your event with the knowledge that you will deliver it with confidence. Soon, you too can be freed from the fear of public speaking after little practice and preparation.
An important part of public speaking is interacting with your audience. Many people focus only on the writing of the speech, but fail to consider the delivery. One very important part of delivering your speech is your one on one connection with your audience. By practicing connecting to audience members you can help remove your fear of public speaking.
Much of the fear comes from the unknown, and not knowing everyone in your audience can bring up some stress or fear. To help overcome this, practice giving your speech in front of friends, family or co-workers and getting a positive response. The more times you practice initially the easier it will be to give your speech when the real day comes.
Practice connecting to one individual at a time. Some people feel uncomfortable with giving eye contact directly to those in the audience, but the more you practice looking someone in the eye, the easier it becomes. Even if you are far away from them, the audience will feel that personal connection, and will continue to pay attention. Make sure you do not just look at the front row but speak to all of the rows of people, even those in the back.
Anyone who may be focused on too much can feel on the spot, but saying a few sentences to each person can make the whole audience part of the experience. Here are a few other things to consider when you are giving your speech.
Interruptions can happen during any speech. There could be crying babies, movement in and out of the room, or cell phones that may go off. Preparing for any interruptions that may occur can remove this stress. Do not stop your talk for any reason. By acting unphased by these possible distractions, your audience will remain focused on the speech as well.
Also, be aware of your body language. It’s easy when nervous to have a stiff body or awkward gestures. Practice saying your speech in front of a mirror so that you can see what gestures you normally do, and how you can make your body look even more relaxed the whole time you are delivering your speech.
When it comes to the day of the speech, remember to stick to the flow of your speech and it will all go smoothly. Do your best to stay in the moment at all times. Do not get lost in your thoughts or in any worries you might have. Focus on your points, and sticking to your script, and your speech will be a success.