How to get over your fear of public speaking
This blog was originally written for GrandPR, a student-run PR firm at Grand Valley State University.
Despite the fact that we all have to do it, public speaking is still many people’s biggest fear. Preparation and practice are the keys to a smooth and fear-free speech! Here are some tips to help you feel confident and prepared the next time you have to speak in front of a group.
Know your topic.
Your fear of public speaking may stem more from not knowing the information than the act of public speaking itself. When you’re preparing your presentation, it doesn’t hurt to do a little extra research to keep up your sleeve for Q&A sessions.
When possible, present on topics that you're passionate about.
This isn’t always an option, but speaking from experience, I can say that my presentations and speeches are SO much easier and less scary when the topic is something that I enjoy talking about. Not only do I know the topic inside and out, but it’s also very likely that this isn’t the first time that I’ve spoken out loud about it.
Practice, practice, practice - OUT LOUD.
When it comes to public speaking, we have a tendency to rehearse it ‘in our heads,’ thinking that that will suffice as real practice. News flash- this won’t help! Sure, you’ll familiarize yourself with the presentation more, but how many times have you rehearsed your speech ‘in your head’ just to get up in front of people and realize how challenging it is to say the words out loud?
While practicing out loud won’t make this go away completely, you would be amazed at how much it can help. You might recognize consistent places in your presentation where you always stumble, things that don’t sound the way out loud that they did in your head, and more. This way, you’ll be able to smooth them out before you are in front of a group of people.
Find a friend, group, or organization to practice in front of.
If you’re in college, there’s a good chance that your school has a speech center that will let you get practice presenting and offer advice. If that option isn’t available, find a friend or two- or an organization, like Toastmasters- that will let you have a trial run on your presentation. This is one of those tips that we like to avoid since it can be uncomfortable. But having a friend hold you accountable to practice your presentation (or making an appointment with a speech help center!) can have huge benefits and make you feel calmer once your real presentation day comes.
Don't wait until the last minute.
Another reason to have a friend watch your presentation or make an appointment? It means you HAVE to get it done early! While it’s human nature to put off things we don’t enjoy until the last minute, you’ll end up saving yourself time, stress, and anxiety by making sure that you give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
Above all, remember that everyone still gets nervous when they’re speaking in front of a group of people. It’s only natural. The people you are presenting to will want you to do well- they are not there to judge you, and they would probably be just as nervous as you. Prepare well, take a deep breath, and slay that speech!