The statistics say it all – the majority of people are afraid of public speaking. It’s one of the top fears many of us have, including the fear of dying, and of spiders!
I know from my own personal experience just how debilitating and frightening this fear can be, and how it can dominate your life. I remember the anxiety I felt in the time before I had a work presentation, and then berating myself for the quality of my performance for weeks afterwards.
It is possible to change this fear of public speaking, and get to the point where it is much easier and even enjoyable to speak in front of others.
Here are some of my tips for an enjoyable and successful public presentation:
Move before or during the presentation
When we are about to give a presentation, our body prepares with a heightened flow of energy. This can make us feel hyper-anxious and can even lead to us shaking, or we may feel nauseous on stage.
Before an event, presentation or class – move your body in a way that is fun for you. This may be swimming, jogging, dancing in the days before the talk, and then you may, like me, jump up and down in the toilet or restroom just before you are on stage.
If you do shake on stage, just know it is not the end of the world – just continue, perhaps walk around a bit, and don’t make it a big deal. Your audience will take the lead from you, and also not make it significant once you relax further into your presentation.
Connect with your audience
Often when people are nervous, they are not very present on stage. Although their body is there, it is obvious from their body language and demeanour that they would really rather not be there at all. This may be true if you are like most of the population who struggles with public speaking.
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The way people tend to compensate for this is by “over connecting” and by repeating things. They may be a little bit forceful in the presentation, and perhaps even though they may not enjoy presenting in this way, they may somehow believe it is the only alternative they have.
The alternative which works well allows you to connect with your audience is where you “pull” energy from them. Try to imagine an invisible flow from behind your audience, through them, and through you. This invisible “pull” creates an audience who engages with you, and this also allows you to tune in to them – with what they require and desire from you, with ease.
This is the place in your presentation where you may find yourself changing what you were going to say, and people thank you afterwards for speaking to their unasked questions.
Dress for confidence
However far away you may seem from being a confident speaker, you probably have a sense of how a confident person would dress to give an important presentation.
Find clothes and makeup that honours you and your body. By wearing clothes that you feel confident in and enjoy, that will give your audience the perception of your professionalism and capability. That you know what you are doing, you know what you are talking about.
When the audience perceives this, they start to positively judge you as being a great, confident speaker, (before you have opened your mouth). The greatest benefit is that you also perceive them judging you as a great speaker, which only adds to your confidence and lessens your fears.
Focus on your audience, not on you
A lot of shyness and apprehension comes from focusing on yourself – will you be good enough? Will people like you? Will you stumble over your words?
If you take some time to ask what your audience is desiring from you in your presentation, how you can help them with the knowledge you have to share, this then shifts the focus away from your fears about the presentation.
I also suggest asking a couple of questions of yourself before you speak. ‘What words can I say that this audience can hear? What words can I say that will assist them the most?’
When you ask open-ended questions like this, what occurs is that you start to speak and you find the words that are exactly what your audience is interested in – without you having to make a great effort to do that.
By using these tips, it will create greater confidence for yourself and with the presentation process. Perhaps rather than avoiding or fearing public speaking, you will look forward to the enjoyment of sharing your message with your audience and the greater world too.
About the author
Fiona Cutts is a communications coach, linguist and facilitator for Right Voice for You, a special program by Access Consciousness. A chartered accountant, Fiona also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages, from St Hilda’s College at Oxford University. She has worked as an accountant in corporations throughout Europe, and with the Red Cross organisation, based in India. During her career, Fiona struggled intensely with public speaking and presentation delivery – an experience she now draws upon to help others liberate themselves from fear and judgment, and unleash their confident and authentic voice.