- PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY
- The fear of public speaking is worse than the fear of death
- Why the brain freezes
- Help for public speaking anxiety
- Change how we think about our mind going blank
- Rehearse to increase confidence
- Learn to relax
- 5 Strategies for Dealing with Speaking Anxiety
- 1. Become more conscious of your feelings
- 2. Don’t write out your script
- 3. Build rhythm into your speaking
- 4. Control your breathing
- 5. Remember: The audience wants you to succeed
- 27 Useful Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
- 1) Get Organized
- 2) Practice and Prepare Extensively
- 3) Eliminate Fear of Rejection
- 4) Focus on Patterns
- 5) Watch Yourself in the Mirror
- 6) Record Yourself and Learn Your Voice
- 7) Work On Your Breathing
- Practice Some More . .
- 9) Give your Speech to Another Person
- 10) Public Speaking Classes
- 11) Lightly Exercise Before Speaking
- 12) PowerPoint Can Be Really Great, or Really Bad
- 13) Even Warren Buffett Had Public Speaking Anxiety at First
- 14) Sip Water That’s Warm or Room Temperature
- 15) Read Eloquence in Public Speaking by Dr. Kenneth McFarland
- 16) Pick a Subject That You Really Care About
- 17) Know 100 Words for Every Word That You Speak
- 18) Focus On the Material, Not the Audience
- 19) Relax and Forget About Your Fear of Public Speaking
- 20) Don’t Overthink Audience Reactions
- 21) Avoid Talking Too Fast
- 22) Make Your Nervous Energy Work for You
- 23) Pay Any Price and Spend Any Amount of Time to Speak Well
- 24) Meditate 5 Minutes a Day
- 25) The Typical Compensation For a Public Speaking Event is ,500 to ,500
- 26) Have Pride in Your Work & Recognize Your Success
- 27) Develop a Plan to Improve Your Next Speech
- 28) Bonus Public Speaking Tip: Utilize the Powerful Speech Pause
- 29) Training Video: The 4 Types of Speech Pauses
- The Key Takeaways For You From This Video Are:
- Have You Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Yet?
- To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Stop Thinking About Yourself
- 1. When you’re preparing, think about your audience.
- 2. Right before you speak, refocus your brain.
- 3. While you’re speaking, make eye contact.
PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY
The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population. The underlying fear is judgment or negative evaluation by others. Public speaking anxiety is considered a social anxiety disorder.
The fear of public speaking is worse than the fear of death
Evolution psychologists believe there are primordial roots. Our prehistoric ancestors were vulnerable to large animals and harsh elements. Living in a tribe was a basic survival skill. Rejection from the group led to death. Speaking to an audience makes us vulnerable to rejection, much our ancestors’ fear.
A common fear in public speaking is the brain freeze. The prospect of having an audience’s attention while standing in silence feels judgment and rejection.
Why the brain freezes
The pre-frontal lobes of our brain sort our memories and is sensitive to anxiety. Dr. Michael DeGeorgia of Case Western University Hospitals, says: “If your brain starts to freeze up, you get more stressed and the stress hormones go even higher. That shuts down the frontal lobe and disconnects it from the rest of the brain. It makes it even harder to retrieve those memories.”
The fight or flight response activates complex bodily changes to protect us. A threat to our safety requires immediate action. We need to respond without debating whether to jump the way of on oncoming car while in an intersection. Speaking to a crowd isn’t life threatening. The threat area of the brain can’t distinguish between these threats.
Help for public speaking anxiety
We want our brains to be alert to danger. The worry of having a brain freeze increases our anxiety. Ironically, it increases the lihood of our mind’s going blank as Dr. DeGeorgia described. We need to recognize that the fear of brain freezing isn’t a life-or-death threat a car barreling towards us while in a crosswalk.
Change how we think about our mind going blank
De-catastrophize brain freezes. It might feel horrible if it happens in the moment. The audience will usually forget about it quickly. Most people are focused on themselves. We’ve handled more difficult and challenging situations before. The long-term consequence of this incident is minimal.
Leave it there. Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the incidents. Focus on what we can learn from it. Worry that it will happen again will become self-fulfilling. Don’t avoid opportunities to create a more positive memory.
Perfectionism won’t help. Setting unachievable standards of delivering an unblemished speech increases anxiety. A perfect speech isn’t possible. We should aim to do our best instead of perfect.
Silence is gold. Get comfortable with silence by practicing it in conversations. What feels an eternity to us may not feel that way to the audience. Silence is not bad. Let’s practice tolerating the discomfort that comes with elongated pauses.
Avoidance reinforces. Avoiding what frightens us makes it bigger in our mind. We miss out on the opportunity to obtain disconfirming information about the trigger.
Rehearse to increase confidence
Practice but don’t memorize. There’s no disputing that preparation will build confidence. Memorizing speeches will mislead us into thinking there is only one way to deliver an idea. Forgetting a phrase or sentence throw us off and hastens the brain freeze. Memorizing provides a false sense of security.
Practice with written notes. Writing out the speech may help formulate ideas. Practice speaking extemporaneously using bullet points to keep us on track.
Practice the flow of the presentation. Practice focusing on the message that’s delivered instead of the precise words to use. We want to internalize the flow of the speech and remember the key points.
Practice recovering from a brain freeze. Practice recovery strategies by purposely stopping the talk and shifting attention to elsewhere. Then, refer to notes to find where we left off. Look ahead to the next point and decide what we’d to say next. Finally, we’ll find someone in the audience to start talking to and begin speaking.
Be prepared for the worst. If we know what to do in the worst-case scenario (and practice it), we’ll have confidence in our ability to handle it. We do that by preparing what to say to the audience if our mind goes blank. Visualizing successful recovery of the worst will help us figure out what needs to be done to get back on track.
Learn to relax
Remember to breathe. We can reduce anxiety by breathing differently. Take slow inhalations and even slower exhalations with brief pauses in between. We’ll be more ly to use this technique if practiced in times of low stress.
Speak slowly. It’s natural to speed up our speech when we are anxious. Practice slowing speech while rehearsing. When we talk quickly, our brain sees it is a threat. Speaking slowly and calmly gives the opposite message to our brain.
Make eye contact with the audience. Our nerves might tell us to avoid eye contact. Making deliberate eye contact with a friendly face will build confidence and slow our speaking.
Join a group. Practice builds confident in public speaking. Groups Toastmasters International provide peer support to hone our public speaking skill. Repeated exposure allows us to develop new beliefs about our fear and ability to speak in public.
The fear of our mind going blank during a speech is common. Job advancement or college degree completion may be hampered by not addressing this fear.
The National Social Anxiety Center is a national association of regional clinics with certified cognitive therapists specializing in social anxiety and anxiety-related problems. We have compassionate therapists who can help you to reduce social anxiety.
Currently, we have regional clinics in San Francisco, District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, Newport Beach / Orange County, Houston / Sugar Land, St.
Louis, Phoenix, South Florida, Silicon Valley / San Jose, Dallas, Des Moines, San Diego, Baltimore, Louisville, Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Maryland / Northern Virginia, Long Beach, Staten Island, North Jersey, Brooklyn, and Santa Barbara.
Contact our national headquarters at (202) 656-8566 or visit our Regional Clinics contact page to find help in your local area.
5 Strategies for Dealing with Speaking Anxiety
A few years ago, I had a terrifying experience while diving with sharks in the Maldives. The instructor told me, “You go first. And dive down quickly—the currents are big today.” I felt a pang of anxiety—I was used to going down slowly. Still, I dove in. When my descent ended, I looked around and saw nothing but deep blue around me.
Since I had been the first to jump in, I had no reference point—nothing but blue above me, below me, ahead of me, and behind me. I had been diving for decades, but for the first time, I felt an incredible sense of panic. It wasn’t until I looked on my depth gauge that the anxiety subsided a little.
By keeping my vision trained on my depth gauge, something familiar to focus on, I was able to stay calm until the other divers entered the water.
Perhaps you feel the same way I felt underwater whenever you speak in front of a crowd. You get a similar feeling of panic, of disorientation. To overcome these feelings, you need to find your own depth gauge to focus on. You need to give your brain something to do other than ruminate over your insecurities.
Here are five strategies to focus on that will alleviate your speaking anxiety:
1. Become more conscious of your feelings
One of the ways you can overcome your speaking anxiety is by becoming more aware of the warning signs of anxiety so you can intervene early. Think of anxiety as a wave. If you wait too long to react, the wave is going to overtake you.
What feelings and physical reactions do you experience when anxiety hits? Do your hands begin to shake? Do you have a sick feeling in your stomach? Does your chest begin to tighten? Tune into your body to explore when the feelings begin.
The earlier you notice the anxiety, the more time you have to do something about it.
2. Don’t write out your script
Another strategy for dealing with speaking anxiety is to stop writing out scripts for your presentations. You might think, “But wait! I need my script so that I don’t forget anything!” However, using a script can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Of course, you need to practice what you’re going to say as much as possible. But don’t become too obsessive about remembering everything word for word. If you do, anxiety will set in the second you forget exactly how you phrased something the week or the night before.
What word did I use again? Wait, did I just repeat myself? There’s only one point left, right? And so on. If the only way you can present effectively is by memorizing a script, you’re setting yourself up for an avalanche of anxiety if you forget something.
The solution is to find a middle ground between rigidity and completely winging it. Be prepared with a general structure and key points to your presentation, but give yourself room to speak off the cuff too. When you stop obsessing over scripts, you’ll feel freer and less anxious.
And don’t be afraid to use technology as a tool in speech prompting!
3. Build rhythm into your speaking
I once worked with a client who constantly paced whenever he spoke. When I asked him why he paced so much, he told me that the rhythm of pacing calmed him down.
While it was good that he found a solution to deal with his speaking anxiety, he found the wrong solution.
Yes, he was calm, but his audiences were irritated! It’s hard to focus on what someone is saying if you’re distracted by their constant movement.
Rhythm can indeed be a great way of dealing with speaking anxiety, but instead of pacing, use rhythm in your speaking by using repetition.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself, especially if you’re repeating key messages critical to your presentation. Repetition in speaking is not only okay, it’s necessary to help your audience retain your message.
By using rhythm, you’ll get into a flow that will help prevent anxiety from setting in.
4. Control your breathing
One of the best ways you can deal with speaking anxiety is by controlling your breathing. Ignore people who tell you to take a big breath before speaking. Instead, focus on your exhales.
By taking small sips of air on inhales and extending your exhales, you will start to calm down.
This method of breathing will take practice, but trust me, I’ve seen it make an incredible difference for people who struggle with speaking anxiety.
5. Remember: The audience wants you to succeed
Finally, if you start to get anxious, reassure yourself that the audience is on your side. I’m reminded of a children’s theater performance of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” I saw a few years ago. At one point, one of the flippers fell off one of the penguins, and you could feel the audience getting worried.
Would one of the kids trip over the flipper? Luckily, nothing happened, and the audience breathed a collective sigh of relief. The point here is that the vast majority of people want your presentation to be a success.
So if you “lose a flipper,” don’t panic—just pick it up, carry on, and imagine you can hear the audience’s sigh of relief. They are in your corner.
Whether your speaking anxiety comes in the form of occasional jitters or constant dread, don’t let that stop you from communicating your ideas with power and purpose. By using these strategies, you’ll become less anxious and more focused on being your best in every speaking situation.
27 Useful Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
The average person ranks the fear of public speaking (also known as glossophobia) higher than the fear of death. The truth is, this fear could be hurting your professional and personal life.
You may have been there before.
You feel nervous, your palms sweat, your stomach ties itself into knots. You don’t want to do it. But you can overcome this fear of oral presentations with these simple public speaking tips!
In business, it is essentially important for you to be able to get your point across. It is ly that all of us will one day have to speak in public. Whether we are giving a formal presentation to an audience, or simply asking our boss for a promotion, speaking skills are essential to getting ahead in a professional setting.
The fear of public speaking is very real. However, there are techniques to help you overcome your fears. There are even ways to help harness your energy in a positive way. If your audience is remote, you will want to read these tips on giving a virtual presentation.
Keep reading if you want to learn how…..
1) Get Organized
When you organize all of your thoughts and materials it helps you to become much more relaxed and calm. When you have clear, organized thoughts it can greatly reduce your speaking anxiety because you can better focus on the one thing at hand, giving a great speech.
2) Practice and Prepare Extensively
Nothing takes the place of practicing and preparing for your speech. Write out a script of your key points, but don’t read from the script word for word. Prepare for your speech so well that you could answer any possible question thrown at you.
3) Eliminate Fear of Rejection
“What if my audience hates my speech? What if they boo me off stage?” Try to eliminate all of your fears of rejection. The audience is there to listen to you for a reason.
4) Focus on Patterns
When you speak try to get into a rhythm or a flow. Keep your sentences short and to the point and repeat key points. A short pause in between points can add anticipation to what you are going to say next.
5) Watch Yourself in the Mirror
Practice your speech in front of the mirror as if you were speaking directly to someone. If you really want to learn how to improve public speaking skills then…
Pay attention to:
- Your facial expressions
- Your gestures
- Your body movements
- How welcoming you appear
When you have gentle expressions and a calm demeanor when you speak, you will be more welcoming to your audience.
6) Record Yourself and Learn Your Voice
Record your speech on your phone or video camera. Record yourself giving the talk from beginning to end. Then listen to it or watch it, and make notes on how you could make it better. Some people do not listening to the sound of their voice on tape, so it is important that you get used to your own voice and speaking style.
7) Work On Your Breathing
When you focus on your breathing your voice will have more resonance and you will relax. Breathe calmly and focus on getting into a rhythm. Although this is a public speaking exercise, breath-work will help reduce stress and improve clarity in all areas of life.
Practice Some More . .
When someone asks me how he can build effective communication skills and improve his public speaking, I quote to him the words of Elbert Hubbard, who said, “The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.”
9) Give your Speech to Another Person
There are plenty of people you can practice on. Be sure to tell the person to be completely honest with you in their critique.
Examples of people you can practice on:
- A significant other
- Your friends
- Your parents
- Your dog
Speaking directly to another person will help relax you and give you experience with getting feedback from someone. If they have questions about your speech, it is ly that members of an audience will have the same questions.
10) Public Speaking Classes
Find a great coach or mentor. There are many groups that you can join to learn the art of public speaking. A group such as Toastmasters is non-profit and helps people get over their fears by having them practice speaking on subjects over and over.
11) Lightly Exercise Before Speaking
Exercising lightly before a presentation can get your blood circulating and send oxygen to your brain. Take a walk before a speech or do a few knee bends.
This little trick is one of my favorite speaking tips. You’ll be amazed by what a little blood flow can do.
12) PowerPoint Can Be Really Great, or Really Bad
Sometimes, having a powerpoint can be your best friend. It can help you if you lose your train of thought, keep your audience engaged, and give people a good place to grab notes and main points from.
However, do not put paragraphs and 1,670,987 other things on one slide. To learn how to create an impactful presentation here: 16 Tips to Create a Great PowerPoint Presentation.
13) Even Warren Buffett Had Public Speaking Anxiety at First
Buffett got over his fears by teaching investing principles to people twice his age. He forced himself to talk to people. He practiced these skills over and over again. Fast forward to today and people hang on his every word. In fact, Warren Buffett quotes have become some of the most famous and sought after bites of investing wisdom in the world.
14) Sip Water That’s Warm or Room Temperature
Sometimes squeezing some lemon into your water helps as well. It helps lubricate your throat. Try to avoid sugary beverages before speaking. These can dry out your mouth and make it harder to talk.
15) Read Eloquence in Public Speaking by Dr. Kenneth McFarland
McFarland, who passed away in 1985, is also known as the “Dean of American Public Speakers,” and in his book, he didn’t talk about methodology or technique at all.
His central message, which influenced me very strongly when I began speaking publicly, was that the key to eloquence is the emotional component that the speaker brings to the subject.
To put it another way, the starting point of being an excellent speaker is for you to really care about your subject. So, here are some inspirational quotes to help inject some passion into your speeches.
16) Pick a Subject That You Really Care About
How to pick a subject that you really care about:
- The subject should have had an inordinate impact on you
- You want to share it with others
- You intensely feel others could benefit from your knowledge
- You can speak about it from the heart
When you speak about something you passionately care about you will be more comfortable and feel more confident in your element.
17) Know 100 Words for Every Word That You Speak
Ernest Hemingway wrote that “In order to write well, you must know 10 words about the subject for every word that you write. Otherwise, the reader will know that this is not true writing.”
I personally feel that, in speaking, you must know 100 words for every word that you speak. Otherwise, your audience will have the sense that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
18) Focus On the Material, Not the Audience
Focus on delivering your material in the best way possible. Don’t worry about audience reactions.
19) Relax and Forget About Your Fear of Public Speaking
When you let go of your stress and relax it eases your body and makes you less tense. Look at #24 for an interesting way that might help you to relax . . .
20) Don’t Overthink Audience Reactions
There is always going to be someone in the audience on their phone or yawning. Remember that there will always be people who are bored or tired. None of these audience reactions have anything to do with you personally.
21) Avoid Talking Too Fast
Talking fast during a speech interferes with your breathing patterns. If you talk too fast you will breathe less. Feeling short of breath will make you panicked and more susceptible to fear. Practice slowing down when you speak, and you will be more calm and relaxed.
22) Make Your Nervous Energy Work for You
Learn to channel your nervous energy into positive energy. Being nervous is a form of adrenaline. You can use it in a positive way to help give an impassioned presentation during public speaking events.
23) Pay Any Price and Spend Any Amount of Time to Speak Well
Make a decision right now that you want to learn to speak and learn to speak well. Be willing to pay any price and go to any lengths to achieve your goal.
I have seen people leapfrog over others in their careers by overcoming their speaking anxiety. In the long run the better you are and the better you get at it the farther and farther you will go in your business career.
24) Meditate 5 Minutes a Day
Meditating can help clear your head of negative thoughts. In an article in Forbes, Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America discussed his public speaking anxiety and how meditating for 5 minutes a day helped him to eradicate negative thoughts from his mind.
If you’re interested in learning the practice of meditation, Jack Canfield published a very helpful article for beginners. Be sure to check out How to Meditate for Clarity, Intuition, and Guidance for step by step instructions and a free guide.
25) The Typical Compensation For a Public Speaking Event is $4,500 to $7,500
Public speaking can be a great source of income. Here’s a video I made recently about speaking in 69 countries and how I began public speaking.
26) Have Pride in Your Work & Recognize Your Success
Your strongest critic is you. When you finish a speech or delivering a presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. You overcame your fears and you did it. Have pride in yourself.
27) Develop a Plan to Improve Your Next Speech
Practice makes perfect. If there is a video of your speech, watch it and make notes on how you can improve on it for next time.
- How do you think you did?
- Are there areas you think you could have improved?
- Did you seem stiff or make any weird facial expressions?
- Did you use a PowerPoint to your advantage? Did it help?
- Did you use “um” often?
- How was your rhythm?
Write everything down, keep practicing and improving. In time you will banish all of your fears of public speaking.
By the way:
You should always save the final version of your speech for later use. Most speeches can be converted into a book which will help you further develop your career. If you’re interested in doing so, be sure to learn how to write a book using my proven process.
28) Bonus Public Speaking Tip: Utilize the Powerful Speech Pause
The powerful speech pause might be the most important speaking technique you will ever learn. Not only will it help you overcome your fear of public speaking, but it will help you master your control over the emotional impact of your speeches.
This secret is something that I’ve used for many years. In fact, dramatic pauses are so powerful that they should be illegal.
In music, all of the beauty is contained in the silences between the notes. In speaking, the drama and power of the speech is contained in the silences that you create as you move from point to point.
This is an art that you can learn with practice.
29) Training Video: The 4 Types of Speech Pauses
There are 4 kinds of speech pauses that you can use to put more power into your presentations.
In this three minute video below I explain them to you.
The Key Takeaways For You From This Video Are:
- Use the sense pause to allow people to absorb the new information and catch up with you.
- Use the dramatic pause to make a point stick in the listener’s minds.
- Use an emphatic pause to emphasize an important point.
- Use the sentence-completion pause to make a statement or quote a line in which everyone is familiar, then let the audience answer it for you.
Many speakers are nervous when they stand up in front of an audience. As a result, they speak faster, with a higher pitch to their voices, and without pausing.
When you are more relaxed, you speak more slowly, pause regularly, and have a much better tone of voice.
Practicing pauses and allowing silences when you speak will enable you to speak with power in any situation.
You may also find some of the blogs, courses, and videos on my public speaking resource page helpful as well!
Have You Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Yet?
Hopefully, you found these tips beneficial and now you are no longer are you one of the people who fear public speaking!
As mentioned, a huge component of overcoming your fear of public speaking is making sure you are prepared and confident in the material you are presenting.
To help you jumpstart the process of writing your speech, try using my proven 5-minute speech formula so you can create a well-formatted presentation and start practicing now!
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today.
He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement.
Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on , , , Pinterest, Linkedin and .
To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Stop Thinking About Yourself
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Most of us — even those at the top — struggle with public-speaking anxiety. When I ask my clients what makes them nervous, invariably they respond with the same answers:
“I don’t being watched.”
“I don’t the eyes on me.”
“I don’t being in the spotlight.”
And it follows that when they get up to speak, nearly all of them initially avoid making eye contact with members of the audience. Therein lies the problem: While avoiding direct eye contact may seem an effective strategy for coping with speaking anxiety, it actually makes you even more nervous.
To understand why, we need to go way back to prehistoric times, when humans perceived eyes watching us as an existential threat. Those eyes were ly predators. People were literally terrified of being eaten alive.
In response to that prehistoric reality, the amygdala, the part of our brain that helps us respond to danger, kicked into full gear. And when our fight-or-flight response gets triggered, we understandably feel intense stress and anxiety.
What does this have to do with public speaking? Turns out, everything.
Here’s the bad news: Our brains have transferred that ancient fear of being watched onto public speaking. In other words, public-speaking anxiety is in our DNA. We experience public speaking as an attack.
We physiologically register an audience as a threatening predator and mount a comparable response.
Many people’s physical responses while speaking resemble how their body would react to physical signs of danger (shortness of breath, redness of face, shaking).
So today when we speak in front of a group and feel the eyes watching us, we feel painfully visible, a caveman exposed in daylight. And because our brain is telling us that we are under attack, we do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves. We construct walls between ourselves and the source of danger — in this case, the audience — to repel the attack and blunt any danger.
What do these walls look ? We focus on our slides. We look down. We retreat into our notes. In the process, we disregard the people in front of us, wishing them into invisibility. Even the most confident speakers find ways to distance themselves from their audience. It’s just how we’re programmed.
Fortunately, there is a solution: human generosity. The key to calming the amygdala and disarming our organic panic button is to turn the focus away from ourselves — away from whether we will mess up or whether the audience will us — and toward helping the audience.
Studies have shown that an increase in generosity leads to a decrease in amygdala activity. Showing kindness and generosity to others has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which has the power to calm the fight-or-flight response.
When we are kind to others, we feel calmer and less stressed. The same principle applies in public speaking.
When we approach speaking with a spirit of generosity, we counteract the sensation of being under attack and start to feel less nervous.
Admittedly, this is hard to do. As a speech coach, I often find that my clients who are the most generous in work and life have the hardest time speaking in public, because their brain is telling them, “Now is not the time to give. It’s time to run!” But it’s absolutely possible to become a generous speaker. Start with these three steps:
1. When you’re preparing, think about your audience.
When we start preparing for a presentation, the mistake we all make is starting with the topic. This immediately gets us inside the details — and makes it harder to break down the wall between us and others. Instead, start with the audience.
Before diving into the information, ask yourself: Who will be in the room? Why are they there? What do they need? Be specific in your answers.
Identify the audience’s needs, both spoken and unspoken, and craft a message that speaks directly to those needs.
2. Right before you speak, refocus your brain.
You are the most nervous right before you speak. This is the moment where your brain is telling you, “Everyone is judging me. What if I fail?” And it is exactly at this moment that you can refocus your brain.
Remind yourself that you are here to help your audience. Be firm with your brain. Tell yourself, “Brain, this presentation is not about me. It is about helping my audience.
” Over time (usually between four and six presentations), your brain will begin to get it, and you will become less nervous.
3. While you’re speaking, make eye contact.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is speaking to people as a group. We scan the room — trying to look everyone at once — and end up connecting with nobody.
In reality, each person in the room is listening to you as an individual. And so the best way to connect to your audience is by speaking to them as individuals. How? By making sustained eye contact with one person per thought. (Each thought is about one full clause.) By focusing at one person at a time, you make each person in the room feel you are talking just to them.
This is hard. We are accustomed to scanning the room. Making direct eye contact can feel uncomfortable at first. Yet, as you practice it more, it will actually make you less nervous. It is far easier (and more effective) to have a series of one-on-one conversations than it is to speak to everyone at once.
When my clients use this technique more than three consecutive times, they almost always report a decrease in speaking anxiety. (Note that the most important people to look at are those who are at the far edges of the room. These are the people who are already at a disadvantage.
By being extra generous to those at the edges of the room, you bring everyone in.)
We know the power of generosity to give us a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and meaning. Generosity is just as powerful in speaking. It turns a nerve-wracking and even painful experience into one of giving and helping others. A generous speaker is calmer, more relaxed, and — most important — more effective at reaching the audience and making the desired impact.