5 Tips to Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking

If you are like me, even the idea of making a pitch in front of an audience scares you out of your wits. Be reassured, public-speaking anxiety is not uncommon. I used to get palpitations hours before the event and tried to plot my escape several times. Unfortunately I am no Houdini, and despite a little nerves-induced tachycardia doesn’t hurt anyone, I really wanted to get over this fear.

On Friday I was fortunate enough to attend a confidence workshoporganised by #upfront and led by inspiring speaker Lauren and actor Joel. Within a couple of hours, I saw people more relaxed and self-assured in front of a small audience. I am sure everyone could benefit from some of the techniques they taught us.

I encourage you to attend one of the #upfront events but in the meantime, here are five things you could do to improve your confidence when speaking in public.

Relax your body

Being on a stage can be nerve-racking, your heart rate goes up, your palms start sweating, your legs shake, and it can be immensely difficult to stand still. As you know, your body can deliver a pack of information about how you feel. The best way to appear calm (even if you’re screaming inside) is to stand strong and rooted.

Ground your feet to the floor, relax your knees, let your hands and arms rest on your side, relax your shoulders, and keep your head up as if a string was pulling it up from its crown.

If you feel restless, choose a member of the audience and make a couple of steps towards them, this is perceived as a more natural and confident change of posture.

Breath and pause

A good posture will help with breathing, but breathing exercises can be quite handy when it comes to calming down your heart and your nerves. Take a few minutes before the speech to exercise in deep breathing and enunciation.

During the talk breath actively, engaging your diaphragm to get more air into your lungs to control your voice projection and strength.

Make pauses to steal a breath and to add pathos to your talk.

Make eye contact

Don’t look at the floor when you go on stage. As Lauren reminded us “the floor is the same floor since you were born”! It is the people you should focus on.

Look around the room to release your tension but try to make eye contact when you feel more relaxed.

Internal cheering

Everybody stumbles. I stumble, you stumble, Justin Bieber stumbles. It just happens, don’t worry about it. Tell yourself “yay” and continue your story. Small mistakes aren’t going to ruin it.

Don’t be sorry

Now, you’ve delivered the perfect speech, you’re about to leave the stage and there it comes, the sneaky shrug or the nervous smile. These are big no-nos! Your audience that until then was captivated by your talk, now is not sure you really believed in your own words. Why should they?

Sorry is a confidence killer. Avoid this kind of apologetic gesture, because it exposes how deeply uncomfortable you are just to be there. Make sure you end your speech on a positive note and just be yourself, be bold and be authentic.

Be yourself, be bold, be authentic

I hope these tips will help you in gaining the confidence you need for your next talk, but ultimately don’t forget that the public is there for you and they want nothing more than for you to succeed.

I spent some awesome time with amazing people, who shared their stories and fears, in a safe environment free from blame and shame. I recommend the #upfront workshop to everyone who would like to learn and practice tools to overcome their fears and deliver effective speeches.

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