The most common phobia people have is the “Fear of public speaking”. Some people dread public speaking even more than death. Most of us live with this fear throughout our lives. Being an underrated skill we fail to get proper guidance to overcome our stage fright. As schools and colleges do not provide any training on public speaking, most of us lack the confidence to speak in public when we reach adulthood. Public speaking is necessary for each one of us irrespective of our age or profession. If you are wondering how public speaking can help you in your life, then let me list out some of its benefits–
As public speaking boosts your confidence levels there are more chances of you succeeding at job interviews
You will be more comfortable working in a team and giving effective presentations and seminars in the workplace. This improves your professional life and your relationship with your colleagues.
As a confident speaker you will be comfortable breaking the ice and starting conversations with strangers. This expands your social circle and improves your personal life.
If you are passionate about public speaking then you can also consider being a professional speaker. There are many people out there who make a living out of speaking or use it as a source of additional income.
With all these and many more rewards that it offers don’t you feel it is worth conquering your fear of public speaking? Let us look into some ways to overcome our fear of public speaking.
1. Take the Plunge
The only way you can get over your fear of public speaking is by going ahead and speaking. It might sound counter intuitive but this is true. The longer we wait to do whatever it is that is causing the fear, the more intense our fear would become. So go ahead and give that speech or presentation you have been pondering over for such a long time. Enroll yourself in public speaking groups or organizations like toastmasters club where you get to constantly challenge yourself and move out of your comfort zone. (Check the Toastmasters International website - http://www.toastmasters.org/ to know more about this organization and to find a club near your area)
2. Mind matters
Dr. Robert Schuller once said “You are what you think about all day long”. This statement is true when it comes to public speaking. We all have this preconceived notion about the things we can do and the things we cannot do. I have heard some people say “Oh…I am such a terrible speaker” When I ask them how many speeches they have given so far, they would say “ Well… none” How can you assume that you are not good at something even before trying it?
Change these self -sabotaging beliefs you are holding in your mind. You can become a good speaker only when you believe you can.
3. Preparation pays
Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration – Thomas Edison
I remember my initial stages of transformation from a shy and incompetent speaker to a more confident speaker. I would practice my speech around 15-20 times before delivering it in Toastmasters club. This preparation played a major role in alleviating the jitters I would feel on the day of my speech. When you are well prepared you are more confident that your speech would turn out well and this keeps you in a relaxed mode.
Public speaking is not an inborn talent but rather a skill which can be cultivated by anyone. It’s true that for some people it comes naturally but even they have to practice in order to spruce up their skills. I have seen some excellent speakers not doing well due to lack of preparation. A word of caution though – Do not over practice. Preparation should be done well in advance and just relax in the in the last 15-30 minutes before delivering your speech .
4. Know your audience
Get to know your audience. We get nervous when we are speaking in front of a group of strangers. If we were to give the same speech in front of our friends we would not be that fearful. Try mingling with few people in the audience before starting out your speech. This makes you feel that those in the audience are not aliens but people just like you. Apart from relaxing your tension this also helps in improving your connection with the audience.
5. Reach out to like-minded people
The best thing about joining a public speaking group is that you get to meet people who are highly supportive and encouraging. You realize that you are not alone; in fact there are millions of people out there with the same mission as yours. You get inspired by those who have transformed from a timid speaker to a confident speaker. You think “If he is capable of doing it then why not me?” You also learn a lot from the experienced speakers. They will be ready to lend you a helping hand by giving you tips on how they have achieved success. There are also people who can give you some genuine feedback on the areas you are good at and the areas you need to work on.
6. Take criticism positively
We all love to receive compliments but when it comes to criticism we prefer to be on the giving end rather than the receiving end. The successful you are, the more criticisms you will have to handle so learn to handle them with a positive attitude. I have seen people who have given up after receiving few negative comments from their peers. Don’t dwell on your criticisms. When someone‘s giving you a negative feedback take it as an opportunity to learn and grow, not a reason to quit.
Be patient. Do not expect things to change in a jiffy. Some people might take more time to improve and others might take less. Do not push yourself too hard by comparing yourself with others. Just go with the flow.
8. Let go of the perfectionist in you
There are people who are unable to take the first step, forever waiting to attain a state of perfection. You feel that your speech is not perfect or your preparation is not up to the mark and wait endlessly for the moment when you would feel everything is perfect. But that moment never comes resulting in never ending procrastination. You don’t have to be perfect in order to be good speaker. All that matters is how passionate you are about what you are saying. Just speak from your heart and your audience will appreciate you for your sincerity.
9. Bounce back
Failures are stumbling blocks to success. Let me quote my personal experience here – It was my 9th speech in toastmasters club. After uttering few lines, my mind went blank and I forgot my entire speech. Standing silent I tried to recollect the speech but could not recall a word. I pulled out the sheet where I had written my speech, went through it for few minutes and then continued the speech from where I had left. It was a bit disappointing at that moment but not as dreadful as we think. Now looking back I am glad to have experienced this. Had this not happened I would not have been overjoyed after successfully delivering my 10th speech. You learn a lot from your failures. Resist the temptation to give up and keep bouncing back
10. Celebrate your success
We often take our success for granted. Reward yourself for the success you have achieved however small it might be. Give yourself a pat on the back for having the courage to get over your fear. By rewarding yourself you will feel good and stay motivated to take the next step.
Don’t take yourself very seriously. Approach public speaking with a committed yet playful manner. Children rarely experience stage fright because they approach public speaking in a playful manner. They are having fun while doing it. Adopt the same attitude
Let today be the day you take the first step to triumph over your public speaking fear. So go ahead and rock the stage.
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