Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Conquer your fear! Dont end up like him         ; photo courtesy of linkedin

Conquer your fear! Don’t end up like him ; photo courtesy of linkedin

Bita Zadeh, Photojournalist

When you think of standing in front of an audience, do butterflies start fluttering in your stomach? Do your palms get sweaty? Do you get light-headed?
Research shows that speech anxiety is blocking people’s ability to give great speeches. However, public speaking is essential in being able to make progress in school and in many careers. Fortunately, a few tips can go a long way to build up confidence and address fears regarding public speaking.

1. Focus on Dealing with the Fear Itself
Rather than focusing on the speech, it is good to focus on the fear itself first. Some anxiety is definitely useful, but if there is an excessive amount, if you don’t deal with the fear, you won’t be able to give a great speech, no matter how hard you try.
This fear comes from your emotional, not rational self. It is not helpful to have fear to achieve the goal of giving a great speech, but your emotional self doesn’t know that. You need to use intentional thinking strategies to manage your emotions in order to reach your goals. Knowing that you are not unique in your fear and knowing that many people have gotten over their fear should relieve some stress.

2. Stay Positive
Next, use positive self-talk. Give yourself a pep talk and psych yourself up before the big speech. This can be done in many ways. Some people meditate, others pray, others listen to music, and others go jogging. There are many ways to get your energy level high. Do whatever works for you. If you are not prepared mentally, you won’t be prepared!
Besides positive self-talk, use positive thinking. If you want to be an effective speaker, you need to believe in yourself. Remind yourself that you are more knowledgeable about the topic than the audience is, so even if you mess up, just play it off with confidence and it probably won’t even be noticeable. If you do not believe in yourself, how do you expect the audience to believe in you?

3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Lastly, practice the speech to gain more confidence in your ability. Read your speech over and over. Practice it in your head, then out loud when you are ready. Use visualization. Visualize what you know about the room you will be giving the speech in, and imagine giving the speech. See everyone staring at you, listening with all of their attention. Imagine the applause breaking out after your speech. This practice will help you to become way more comfortable when it is actually time to go up and give the big presentation.

Even experienced public speakers may continue to experience fear. These tips, widely used, can help anyone minimize the impact the anxiety that comes with public speaking. Ava Malakooti (11) explained that she uses these tips every time she has a presentation and, “They have helped so much in reducing my stress before I do a presentation”. The more you practice these techniques and get up in front of a group and speak, the sooner you will get rid of your fear.