Today’s post is written by Sarah Stockton, an Outreach Coordinator for Voices.com, a site connects businesses with professional voice talents. She enjoys helping potential voice talent find their start in the voice industry.
Sitcoms and movies like to use the pervasive fear of public speaking for comic effect. Unfortunately, the tactic they most often suggest to combat that fear is imagining the audience in their underwear. Again, this is more for comedy’s sake than a valid, real-life solution. But a fear of public speaking is no joke.
It can range from mild nervousness before a speech to true glossophobia, manifesting with physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. It can hinder your career and your emotional well-being.
But you can overcome the fear of public speaking. Here’s how.
1. Join Toastmasters
Since 1924, this non-profit organization has been giving people the opportunity to build public speaking skills by offering venues for practice. Other members who attend Toastmasters functions then provide the speaker with feedback and constructive criticism, all in an effort to help them improve while enjoying a safe, collaborative environment.
Toastmasters is run like a club, and requires a membership application and payment of dues. These dues go toward securing locations for group functions, as well as supporting materials. In addition to being able to practice your public speaking at these events, Toastmasters also introduces you to others in your situation.
You’ll be able to discuss your fears and gain insights from those who also struggle with—or who have conquered—those fears. You can check their website for a location near you, and if there isn’t one, Toastmasters will assist you in starting a group in your area. Support is vital if you want to overcome the fear of public speaking.
2. Be Prepared
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not just a Boy Scout motto. Preparing yourself for a public speaking engagement can mean the difference between freezing up on stage and successfully delivering a speech. Being prepared also encompasses different aspects. Practice your speech until you have it down pat, and then practice some more. Practice in front of a mirror, and then in front of a group of close friends who will give you constructive feedback. Make an audio recording of yourself, and listen to it to find areas that could be improved.
Also prepare yourself mentally. Think positively, and visualize meeting your goal of coming to the end of your speech in a calm, confident manner. Verbalizing your fears, or continually thinking negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this” will only reinforce your fears. Don’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy for yourself.
[Related Post: Give a More Confident Presentation in Four Quick Steps]
3. Don’t Give Up
Above all, no matter what happens, no matter how many times you get stage fright, or even choke in the middle of a speech, don’t give up. The things in life that are truly worthwhile don’t come easy. They require hard work and perseverance. Giving in to your fears, and giving up on public speaking, can not only be a blow to your career but to your self-esteem.
If you find yourself in a public speaking situation that is overwhelming, take a step back. Maybe you need to start smaller, whether that means a shorter presentation, an easier topic, a smaller audience, or all of the above. If you can’t swim, jumping into the deep end isn’t always a good idea. You may need to start out in the shallow end and work your way to the deeper water.
[Related Post: The Best Speech Ever: 4 Simple Steps]