This article was last updated on April 5, 2017
Would you rather die than stand in front of a large crowd and deliver a speech? If so, you’re not the only one.
Many surveys have shown that public speaking is the most common fear after the fear of dying! In fact, as you are reading this article, thousands of people around the world are about to perform speeches. Many of them are scared senseless, but some truly enjoy it.
So what separates confident public speakers from those who avoid addressing an audience like the plague?
In this article, I’m going to give you 9 powerful tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and deliver a great speech.
9 Powerful Tips to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking
Understand that public speaking is a learnable skill.
Let’s be clear, public speaking is a skill. And, like any other skill, it can be learned. The better you get at it, the more confident you will become. “I’m not a good communicator” or “I’m not charismatic” aren’t valid excuses.
I’ve always been interested in why some people are charismatic, while others seem to lack it entirely. In the end, however, I realized that, if you break it down to its simplest element, good public speaking isn’t about charisma. It’s essentially a mix of words and gestures. Can you learn to use better words? Of course. Can you improve your body language? Sure. Can you work on your voice? Yes, you can. In fact, if you are committed enough and willing to put enough time and effort into it, there’s no reason you can’t become a world-class public speaker! The first step is to believe that it’s possible. If that’s something you struggle with, check out these awesome quotes that will make you believe in yourself again.
Let me tell you the story of Millionaire Mentor Dan Lok. Dan Lok was originally born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada when he was a teenager, he didn’t even speak English. He absolutely dreaded speaking in front of people, but he turned himself into a top-notch orator and even coached someone who went on to win the Toastmasters World Championship.
Despite the fact that he once loathed the idea of addressing a crowd, Lok no longer experiences this fear. In fact, he said the following in one of his YouTube videos: “Nowadays when I go up to the stage I don’t get nervous anymore. Not one bit. Even a little bit. None.”
Dan Lok learned the art of public speaking, and so can you!
Focus on your message, not on yourself.
One of the biggest problems people have when speaking in front of an audience is that they are overly self-conscious. They worry too much about what other people think of them and become nervous.
What if they don’t like me? What if my mind goes blank and I make a total fool of myself?
One of the most powerful techniques you can use when giving a speech is to focus on your message rather than focusing on yourself. In fact, from the standpoint of your audience, you aren’t as important as you may think you are. Your audience is much more interested in what you have to say and how they’re going to benefit from it than they are in you as a person. You’re simply a vehicle for your message. The vehicle isn’t important, the message is.
This technique can be applied to the preparation for your speech as well. When preparing your speech, don’t think about trying to make other people like you. Narrow your focus to the message you want to convey to your audience and the value you want to provide them. What’s the best way to get your message across? How can you make sure everybody gets something out of it? The more you focus on your message and what you want to give your audience, the calmer you’ll be when you go on stage.
Have some “me time” before you go on stage.
Whenever possible, take some time for yourself just before your speech in order to prepare yourself mentally. Use this time to focus on the message you want to deliver and the impact you want to have on your audience. Dan Lok has a great visualization exercise that can be used to do just that. He imagines a white light coming from the sky and hitting him. This light becomes brighter and brighter and spreads across the entire room, reaching every single person there. It reminds him that his message should provide value to everybody in the room, even those who may not necessarily like him.
Take your time and become comfortable with silence.
Most people tend to talk too fast when they’re nervous. This is usually because, on a subconscious level, we want to get out of the situation as soon as possible. The faster you speak, of course, the sooner you’ll be done.
That’s why it’s important that you remember to take your time. Personally, I like to take a few seconds to look at the audience and make eye contact with them before I start my speech.. This technique has multiple benefits.
Firstly, it makes you look more confident and increases the chance that people will listen to you and your message. Silence in itself has tremendous power.
Secondly, it allows you to start building a relationship with your audience. An audience is made of people and, by creating personal connections with some of them, you’ll begin to see your audience as a gathering of individuals like you rather than a scary and intimidating entity you’ve created in your mind. This will greatly reduce your nervousness.
Last but not least, this technique gives you a sense of ownership. It gives you a sense that you control the room. Remember that public speaking is a fantastic opportunity for you to deliver your message. In an age of boundless technology, how often do you get a chance to capture the undivided attention of a group of people?
Start your speech with a great ice-breaker.
If you can start your speech well and connect with your audience from the get-go, everything will be easier. Try to involve your audience from the beginning of your speech and make your best effort to engage with them. Think of your presentation as a conversation with your audience rather than a one-sided interaction. It’s best to talk to them, not at them.
Personally, a great thing I like to do is to start my speech by asking my audience a question. You can also ask your audience to repeat something you’ve said or raise their hands. You can even ask them to stand up.
If you want to discover more great ways to start your speech, check out this video from renowned public speaker Brian Tracy: 15 ways to start a speech or a presentation.
Do your homework.
Giving a speech can be a very scary experience and the last thing you want to do is to add unnecessary uncertainty to the process. Make sure you’re familiar with the venue you’ll be speaking out. Visit the place beforehand if you can. If that’s not possible, arrive early and don’t hesitate to ask someone to show you the venue if necessary. Walk on stage and visualize the audience. Befriend the staff and immerse yourself in the environment. Doing these things will enable you to feel more comfortable in your surroundings, which will make addressing your audience much easier.
In short, you want to gather as much information as you can beforehand in regards to the venue, the number of people you’ll be speaking to, and the schedule. How will you be introduced? Will there be other speakers before or after you? Will you have a mic?
These are just a few of the questions you’ll want to have answered going in. It may seem like a lot, but the good news is that the process of preparing yourself mentally will run much more smoothly once you have all this information.
Overcome your fear of public speaking through practice, practice, and more practice.
When it comes to delivering a great speech and reducing the anxiety that often comes with public speaking, practice is key. Do you want to fumble for words and be unsure of what you’re trying to say while standing in front of hundreds of people? Probably not.
Thankfully, this scenario is avoidable so long as you practice. Rehearse your speech again and again as often as you need to, be it 5, 10, 20, or even 100 times. Practice your speech until you feel confident enough to deliver it without any notes.
If you want to speed up the process, try making a video recording of your rehearsal. Many people dislike the idea of seeing video recordings of themselves, so you may be reluctant to do this. That said, it’s more than worth it. Analyzing your performance will improve your speech tremendously and help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get used to watching yourself on video. You may also want to give your speech to a few of your friends and ask for their feedback.
Be crystal clear on the main points of your speech.
It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: Halfway through your speech your mind suddenly goes blank. You just can’t remember what you’re supposed to say next! No!
To avoid this dreaded scenario, make sure that you’re crystal about the message you want to get across and the key points that you MUST make. This, combined with extensive practice, will help you ensure your ability to convey the most important components of your speech even if you forget some minor elements (which you almost certainly will at some point). If you’re allowed to use some notes, it may be a good idea to write down your main points on a piece of paper that you can refer too if needed.
Accept your fear of public speaking,
Understand that many people get nervous before they go on stage, and some of these people have been engaging in public speaking for years or even decades. In my Toastmasters Club, I’ve seen veteran speakers’ hands shake when they begin their speeches. They appear confident on stage, but they do get nervous just like everybody else.
No matter how much you prepare, you’ll probably still get nervous before giving your speech. But that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal. Successful public speakers (and successful people in general) aren’t superhuman. They get scared just like anybody else. What separates them from other people, however, is their refusal to let their fear stop them. They accept the fact that they’re scared but they do the thing that they fear regardless.
In the end, it may be less about overcoming your fear of public speaking and more about accepting the fear but refusing to let it stand in your way. The fact that you read this entire article tells me that you’re already ahead of many people in terms of your desire to face your fear and your commitment to doing so. Feel your fear but push through it anyway. If you need some motivation, these great quotes will bolster your determination and help you move forward and confront your fears.