January is widely regarded as the month in which we give up something that we know isn’t good for us, or we vow to set ourselves a new challenge that we know is. If your goal this year is to overcome your fear of public speaking, this is the blog for you!
When asked about common fears, the majority of people in surveys cite public speaking as the thing that raises their heartbeat the most and brings them out in a cold sweat. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked that “at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
This week, learning and development expert Ana Canabarro gives us her top tips on helping to ease public speaking nerves that anyone can master.
- Keep breathing. It may seem obvious, but your breathing is really important to the way your voice sounds when you speak. Just before you start your presentation, take a minute or two to breathe slowly and calm yourself down if you are feeling anxious. There are lots of quick breathing techniques that can help people feel more relaxed – check out this link for some breathing exercises you can try.
- Remember your posture and body language. Your body and its physicality can have a powerful effect on your mind. If you walk around all day, hunched over, looking down at the floor, with a frown on your forehead – how confident are you likely to feel? Practice confident body language in the mirror if you can. If you’re not used to speaking in public, you will likely be unaware of how you come across. Avoid pacing around or holding anything in your hand that could make you seem nervous. Practice speaking with relaxed hands by your side and using them to help you make a point with impact. Finally, have your material printed, or on a laptop or device to glance at – that way, you’re always facing your audience and not the presentation screen.
- Know your material. Some people can ‘blag’ a presentation just with bullet points, whereas some prefer to write everything they are going to say, so find out what works for you. But, make sure you know the material inside and out – know it so well that you won’t have to look at notes. This is not necessarily to say that you know the script verbatim, but you should know it well enough that you know what’s coming next – and never just read out what’s on the slides!
- Practice, practice, practice! If you are a natural at speaking in public, then perhaps you don’t need a lot of practice, but for most people, it’s a really important step. Whether you get a loved one to listen to you or simply practice in front of the mirror, it could help you with the flow of the words and make it seem more natural when it really is ‘showtime’.
- Work on your thoughts. If, just before a big presentation, your mind is thinking of how bad you are at public speaking, it’s certainly not going to help your nerves. So instead, practice thinking about things that could be useful for you, maybe something that you are passionate about or something that helps you feel inspired. In your thinking and presence, ‘be’ with your audience, don’t think they’re against you but instead, realise that they actually want to hear what you’re saying and see you succeed!
Ultimately, developing great public speaking skills takes time and experience. The more you do it, the easier and more comfortable it should feel. You’ll always have trouble with things outside of your comfort zone, and they’ll remain there unless you stretch yourself. Good luck!
Ana Canabarro is senior operations manager for Mitie’s client services business. To find out more about the consultancy we offer, visit our website.
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