The idea of speaking in front of a group makes most people worry. In fact, some people reported that they fear public speaking than death.
Suppose you are one of the millions who fear public speaking, or you want to improve your public speaking; in that case, this article is for you.
Public speaking is an excellent skill that is required for a leadership role. Whether you are an employee, business executive or community leader, we all should be comfortable speaking publicly to some level.
Regardless of your situation, you can become a better public speaker through a deliberate act of learning and practising.
Fear of Public Speaking?
Fear of public speaking has to do with many different elements, including how we feel, thinks, or acts. The theories exploring the fear of public speaking have identified four contributing factors, as explained by Dr Theo Tsaousides, a neuropsychologist & professor.
- Physiology – When confronted with a threat, our bodies prepare for battle. This hyperarousal leads to fear, and eventually, it prevents people from pursuing opportunities for public speaking.
- Thoughts – The people see the speaking event as a potential threat to their credibility, image, and chance to reach an audience. Negative views of oneself as a speaker can lead to the fear of speaking in public.
- Situations – Like lack of experience, status differences, new ideas, new audience, or degree of evaluation can also create intense fear in most speakers.
- Skills – Finally, another factor that contributes to the fear of public speaking is how skilled you are in the area.
Solutions to Fear of Public Speaking
As a member of Toastmasters Club, I have delivered more than ten prepared speeches and dozens of table topics. I have also spoken at seminars, webinars and training events.
Therefore, I tried each of the tips mentioned in this article. This advice also helped many other people to overcome their fear of public speaking.
1. Research about the topic
You are not supposed to be an expert in every topic, but you are expected to do some homework when speaking to others. When you care about something, you learn about it, making it easier to talk about it.
So, if you’re going to speak on a topic, make sure you do some research from reputable sources and reference them. Your sources can be external data or internal company information. Research helps speakers to talk about facts, data-driven than purely emotions or generalization.
2. Know Your Audience (KYA)
Part of your research should include knowing your audience. You should ask yourself some questions: Who are the target audiences, why are would they listen to you? What do they want?
Getting the notes about these questions helps you to prepare a message that speaks directly to your audience.
The needs of a customer, vendor, employees, and board of directors are different under different circumstances. For instance, if your company is performing poorly, each stakeholder sees it differently.
3. Practice and Practice
Ralph C. Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International, once said that “the unprepared speaker has a right to be afraid.”
He is very much right. Nothing takes the place of a focus practising if you aim to deliver a better speech. Depending on the nature of the presentation, you should write out a script of your key points or full speech. But do not memorise or read from the script during the speech.
Speech practice is one of the best pieces of advice we often give to new members as they prepare their toastmaster speeches. I often record my speech from start to end using both video and audio. The aim is to listen or watch the recording and take note of areas that need improvement. The areas may include my facial expression, body movements, choice of words and pause fillers ( um, you know, so etc.). Naturally, I am a fast speaker, and sometimes people don’t hear me. However, through practice, I learn to slow when speaking in public. It has improved and will continue.
4. Have Someone Review Your Presentation
Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone else objectively give feedback about your speech before presenting in front of the actual audience.
This person can be your family, colleague, or friend. With the proper evaluation approach, they can provide positive feedback and areas that can be presented better.
5. Join a local Toastmasters Club
One of the best low-cost ways to improve public speaking skills is to join a local toastmasters club. Toastmasters is an international body that focuses on helping its members in leadership and communication skills. The system has been around for close to 100 years. With less than $120 a year, you have access to materials, networks and platforms to improve your skills. Do not take my words for it; go to YouTube and search “Toastmasters International Speech Competition” to feel how some members are doing.
If you have the money, but not necessary, you can also take courses or hire a speech coach whose cost typically ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.
It does not matter which route your use; the critical step is to invest in yourself as a leader.
7. Use Stories and especially personal stories
Have you noticed something about the best TED talk presenters, religious and motivational speakers? They all infuse stories in their presentations. The act of sharing a story is powerful. It triggers an emotional connection between you and the listener. Presenters use stories to explain the status quo logically and then reveal the solution.
Stories become even more potent if it is your own story that shares personal feelings and experiences with the status quo.
8. Have an excellent ending
The ending is one of the key critical aspects of any presentation. You should include an inspiring call to action to motivate listeners to act.
You can use an approach Nancy Duarte the best-selling author of DataStory, describe as the new bliss: Tell them how much better their world will be when they adopt your ideas.
Time to Act
Now that you have learned some actionable ways to become a better public speaker, it’s time to get speaking!
And remember that personal development is a personal responsibility.