A great public speaking statistic was once made on national TV by Jerry Seinfeld, from the TV show Seinfeld, who found a poll that said that the number one fear for Americans was public speaking. Death was at number five. With this he joked that “…at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
Now forgiving the statistical error Jerry made, public speaking is actually ranked at the top fear of many people, Americans included. From my own personal history, as well as some of the many tips I was able to find online, here are 10 tips for eliminating public speaking fears.
1. Practice right before you go to bed.
My best tip to myself by far. Trying to memorize and practice what I have to say right before I go to bed really helps. On a scientific level, your brain works at night and whatever you process last (right before bedtime) sub-consciously becomes more familiar to you the next day! This tip has helped me tremendously, especially for presentations.
2. Be prepared.
I envy people who can go up and stir the crowd up without any practice beforehand. But until I get there, knowing the material and speaking with authority on that particular subjects projects confidence, which in turn makes you less nervous while your up on center stage.
3. Use bullet points and do not memorize word for word.
If you try to memorize your entire speech or presentation, that will make you more nervous! Instead focusing on memorizing bullet points has helped me since I can be a little more spontaneous, but at the same time, give me direction whenever I feel lost. Trying to memorize what you have to say word for word just makes you think more about what you have to say, which puts more pressure on yourself.
4. As I saw on a shampoo commercial where a guy tells his nervous professor to just imagine him naked to take away his fear of speaking…
Realize this: whoever your audience is, they want you to succeed. Even if you are very nervous, if you just stand tall you will look 90% confident. The fast heart beat, butterflies, and sweaty palms can’t be seen by the audience. In fact, they want to hear a good presentation, and most times, they will like you no matter what.
5. Smile. Smiling makes you happier and makes you more confident.
Smile and try to gaze for familiar faces. This allows you to make a positive connection with your audience and takes your mind of of the “I can’t do this” thoughts.
6. Be enthusiastic.
Even if its a boring business meeting or a boring school presentation, saying your part with fake enthusiasm will rub off…to yourself! Its like smiling except it you can do it for the entire duration.
7. Eat a lot of yogurt and nuts.
Some natural chemical inside yogurts and nuts helps to calm you down. I find this works better than a glass of water, and just the fact of me eating it makes me psychologically more confident in myself.
8. Breathe. But don’t just breathe, breathe until your lungs are full.
Make sure to get enough oxygen inside of you just in case you run into the good old shortness of breath. Rapid breathing is one of my main problems when I am in a public speaking setting, so I always make sure to take a couple big breaths right before I start talking.
9. Project a success image into your head right before you begin talking.
I usually like to project myself confidently presenting to my audience, and when the time comes for me to begin, I will follow my projections to a T.
10. As the famous A.I. once said, “Practice? Practice? You wanna talk about Practice?”
Yes, practice by yourself talking into an imaginary audience, practice to your roommates, your parents, siblings, friends, or even your dog. Practice puts the motion inside your brain, and when the actual time for your speech comes, your brain will already know what to say.
Of course, the best way to overcome your fear of public speaking is through public speaking classes. It is pretty much practice, just in a real setting. There are also many different self-help programs that aim to give you confidence and help you develop techniques to overcome anxiety and panic.
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Note from author Tim Carllson: I have spent all of high school and college in fear of getting up and talking in front of my peers. Its such a simple task, but one that made me extremely nervous and sweaty. There is hope for people like me, and I found how to overcome my public speaking fears. Visit http://www.squidoo.com/fightpanicattacks to read about how I was able to overcome my fears and anxieties.
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