Social phobias are more common than most people know, and the fear of public speaking is among the most dominant ones in the general population. Luckily, although there’s no quick fix for curing this type of anxiety, mitigating its effects is a lot more in your control than you may think.
Presenting in front of other people doesn’t have to be a stressful activity you want to avoid at all costs. Learning how to do reduce your fear of public speaking is an important part of the process of improving your communication skills, and here’s how to approach it.
1. Go in prepared
Having a fear of public speaking doesn’t mix well with failing to prep for a presentation of any kind. Even though thinking and reacting on the go are useful skills many great speakers nurture, don’t pressure yourself to master them in this phase. When you’re well prepared, you’re pretty close to being able to control the situation. That’s why, if you can help it, you should never agree to hold a presentation of any kind without counting in the time you’ll need to get ready for it.
2. Practice in front of a mirror
This is a great way to keep your fear of presenting at bay, but sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Seeing yourself in the mirror every day in no way prepares you for analyzing your dressed-up appearance, gesticulation, and other non-verbal aspects that make up your presence. The first try might turn out to be a bit challenging, but keep going regardless: it gets easier and easier with every new session.
3. Record your speaking voice
Once you’ve grown accustomed to yourself during the mirror exercise, it’s time to raise the bar. Recording and evaluating your voice can be a lot more challenging, as it sounds different to you when compared with how others hear it. Luckily, just as with the mirror test, each new recording will make you feel more confident and prepared for what lies ahead.
4. Remember to breathe!
This advice might sound a bit redundant but think about it for a minute. Making sure not to cause shortness of breath is quite a task for someone who tries to battle the fear of public speaking, and it takes time to get it just right.
How will you control your breath and ensure your brain is oxygenated enough to perform superbly? The next advice is there to help you do just that.
5. Pause is your best friend
When they’re nervous, most people speed up their speech and movements rather than slowing them down, as the result of an elevated heart rate (a common tag-along of most types of anxieties). The trick is to reverse the process and, instead of rushing through an uncomfortable situation, send a signal to your brain that you are relaxed and everything is under control.
Whenever you feel your pulse is slightly elevated, slow down just a bit, finish the sentence, and make a pause that’s 3 seconds long. By doing this, you will break the cycle of getting more and more anxious, giving yourself the time to breathe and getting a chance to plan what you’ll say next.
6. Never learn speeches by heart
Even if your memory is impeccable, never push yourself to memorize every word of your presentation. Miss one word during the actual event and your brain will start spinning uncontrollably, letting the fear succumb you entirely.
Instead of remembering the words, remember the points, important thought “hubs” and the reason why you’re telling people all those things you’re about to tell. This way, you’ll be able to improvise without feeling like you’re being put on the spot.
7. Curb your perfectionism
Both the fear of public speaking and perfectionism are in the service of humans: they make us want to try harder to always be better than we currently are. If not controlled, though, they can wreck your self-esteem and ruin your every performance.
As a person afraid of being the center of attention, don’t ask yourself to become a master speaker after a few attempts. This unrealistic goal can really hurt your efforts. Set a few minor goals every time you practice or present in public, and try to check as many of them off as you can.
It’s practice that makes perfect, not being perfect to begin with.
8. Don’t fear your audience
Of course, your listeners are the reason why you present in the first place, but never focus on them so much as to see them as critics who just lie in waiting. It’s not what they really are. All that listeners really want is not to put a speaker down, but to be engaged, educated, and entertained. If you manage to do at least one, they’ll “forgive” your imperfect presentation skills.
Susanna Balashova is a creative college paper writing service specialist and a word magician in a world of (mostly) boring marketing. She’s able to turn mundane work tasks into interesting activities and likes creating her own world by making fanfic sketches. Reach out to her on Twitter or LinkedIn to learn more about Susanna’s life and work.