The fear of speaking ranks higher than the fear of dying.
A great many people shudder at the thought of addressing an audience. The primary reason for this reaction is that people are generally afraid of looking foolish under the spotlight.
It is this concern about doing or saying something that will appear stupid that causes fear to take root before a speaking presentation is delivered.
The key to overcoming your fear is to reduce the significance of the event. Become somewhat neutral to the idea of making a mistake. In order to do that, you will have to be confident of your ability to handle any situation which arises.
Such confidence is achieved through:
· Leave nothing to chance - plan for every aspect of your presentation. From your opening, to your closing, to the jokes, quotes and stories you will use for your main content, everything needs to be pre-planned. Even potentially awkward moments, where technological failures leave gaps of silence should be considered beforehand.
· Your materials - familiarise yourself with all presentation props and any case studies or other content that you will be going over.
· Know your audience - don't wait until you are standing in front of your audience before you assess them and attempt to tailor your delivery.
· Conditions - ensure you have a good idea of the venue, stage, and facilities available to you. This knowledge can prove instrumental, and can prevent any unwanted last minute surprises.
· In front of a mirror - more or less self-explanatory; a mirror allows you to see yourself as your audience will see you.
· Record your practice - just as with the mirror exercise, this method is a great way to observe yourself from an audience perspective, and correct any ineffective gestures, words, or other components of your presentation.
· Use a friendly audience - ideally, you should aim to practice your speech in front of a person or mock audience (be it your family or friends). You will boost your confidence and gain valuable feedback which you can incorporate to perfect your presentation as much as possible, before you encounter your real audience.
· Outline the speech - outline your opening, the main body of your talk, and your close. You may want to rehearse your opening and close, but be a little more flexible with the core part of your talk. That's fine, but remember that outlining will help to keep you on track with time, and prevent you from digressing from the point.
· Organise materials - take some time out to have all your materials well arranged and in order. This will avoid you making any embarrassing blunders during a live delivery.
· Reduce the importance or significance - there are many strategies for doing this. The main thing is to lessen the importance of the those you are delivering to, to ensure you do not suffer stage fright.
· Connect with individuals - if you take some time to make connections with a handful of people prior to your talk, you will naturally feel more relaxed when you have to present to the full audience. It also gives you an opportunity to make eye contact with friendly faces that you have already partially become acquainted with.
· Do breathing exercises - your breathing controls your heart rate. If you slow your breathing down, you will naturally feel more relaxed and comfortable. This puts you in a better state of mind to perform at your best.
· Lighten your mood - have fun, and enjoy your time speaking. If you're having fun, your audience will too.