A study done at Chapman University found that among the many fears of Americans, public speaking is number one. In fact, it was so common of a fear that it surpassed the fears of ghosts, clowns, and zombies by more than half.
These statistics are no surprise. The all too familiar feeling of waiting for your name to be called, throat dry and hoarse, palms sweaty, knowing that everyone is looking at you is a feeling not many people enjoy.
I hated public speaking because of that feeling. I let that feeling take control of me and made every presentation I gave a traumatic experience. However, over time, and after enrolling in a public speaking class, I began to love the experience. Public speaking can be fun, and if not fun, at least bearable and here’s how:
Remind yourself that no one really cares
Blunt, but painfully true. Now I want you to think about yourself and what you think when listening to presentations.
Do you care when someone stutters on a word? Do you care when someone mispronounces a word? Do you care when someone makes a silly mistake?
The answer is probably no. People with a fear of public speaking obsess over the small mistakes they make and fear that everyone is judging them. But when you really think about it, how likely are you to catch that same mistake in someone’s else’s speech?
If disaster strikes, remember that everyone forgets
Sometimes we don’t just make silly mistakes; we make big mistakes. Personally, one time I began choking on my spit during a presentation. I was mortified and could feel the stares of people. That day, people brought up the incident to me; however, by the next day, it was a thing of the past. No one remembered about my mishap and if they did it would vanish their thoughts in the succeeding days.
Be confident… or at least fake it
The truth good public speakers are just people who can act confident. Let me give an example. In the public speaking class I took last spring, there was a student who never memorized his speech, forgot major parts of his speech, and would go up in front of the whole class without even looking at his outline. Despite all this, he was the top student. The only reason for this was because of the confidence he brought to his speeches. He would speak clearly and loudly with constant intonation in his words, stand proudly in front of the room, and most importantly display a large smile on his face. He exuded confidence and charisma, and that itself made him an effective public speaker. Now I know not everyone can just go up there and act jovial about public speaking, but we can all fake it. If you go up there and just force a smile on your face, you are already one step closer to being a great public speaker. Acting confident is a skill that takes time to learn; however, it is critical in lessening the fear surrounding public speaking.
People suffering from anxiety and other mental illnesses may of course experience heightened fear of public speaking. This article is merely giving advice on how to lessen the fear and in no way attempting to be discriminatory towards people with anxieties about things they cannot control.
I am not the most spectacular public speaker nor do I not get the jitters when I have a speech, but by implementing these strategies, I have improved tremendously. Public speaking can be a wonderful thing once you learn to embrace it rather than run away from it.