Let’s be honest. It is not easy to speak to a crowd. To put it another way, it is not comfortable to talk confidently to an audience.
I was afraid myself for quite some time. I would deliver but with less confidence and clarity. I guess my culture and the education system were both discouraging in this regard.
But, over the course of my career as a student and as a teacher, I do not have that fear anymore. Although I have improved quite a bit, there are always new ways to seek to how to become the best speaker.
You may have your own strategies. Here are some of the ways that helped me overcome my fear.
#1. Acknowledge that you have a fear problem. If you do not recognize it, you are not going to look for help to improve. Do not feel ashamed. Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly writes, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” Have courage. According to Brown, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
#2. Always be prepared for the talk. If you do not prepare, do not expect the best from yourself. The human mind does not process new information in an eloquent and organized manner. You have to work on it and prepare it many times before you go up the stage to deliver. Things as familiar as your own life story are difficult to talk about if you have no clue what and how you are going to say it.
#3. Think yourself as an authority when you present. It is true, mostly. When you deliver a talk, keep in mind that you know— let’s pick a random number—more than 95 percent than the rest of the participants and the audience on that particular topic. Sometimes, including your professor and panelists and other speakers. So, do not forget that you are the authority—only if you do the work, of course—on that subject. This should give you confidence.
#4. Feel like you are talking to one person at a time. You would think it would be easier if you only had to speak to a person because you are more confident and eloquent. You feel overwhelmed when more heads show up in the room. But, the good news is that you are actually talking to one person at a time even though they appear to be more than one.
If you think about people in the room, they each listen to you individually. Their brains are not connected to what I call a “super-structure brain” that knows everything about you and what you are saying. So, you are still talking to the one person that you wish to. And that one person has their own possible worries, limitations of knowledge and a zillion other thoughts going on in their head. So, do not panic.
#5. Speak slowly when you feel overwhelmed. Do not rush your words. We tend to have more control over our language and body when take the time to relax.
#6. Know that you have no evidence of being judged. At public speaking events, most people are afraid of being judged by the audience. But that is not true because you have no evidence of it. So basing your knowledge of how people would react to you on assumptions is not useful. When you have this perspective, you should feel more confident.
#7. Take a breathing exercises class. If you have problems with breathing while speaking, take a course with a singer or a trained public speaking practitioner. They will teach you how to use your lungs, nose, etc. to create capacity for speaking and produce quality sound, appropriate intonation, etc.
#8. Take a genuine interest in the topic. If you are not interested in the idea(s) you are presenting, it is difficult to bring passion and confidence to the presentation.
I hope this helps break your fear. I would like to know your ideas on the topic in the comments section.
Have a wonderful weekend.