Guess what topic is the most requested in public speaking classes and coaching sessions? You got it–how to deal with the fear of speaking in public. Some people love to share their ideas in a public forum, but most presenters experience anxiety when speaking before an audience. When asked what they are afraid of, the answers range from looking like an idiot, to stumbling over their words, to forgetting what they planned to say.
We experience stage fright when we focus on ourselves. We think about how we are going to forget our speech, or wewill look foolish, or we will freeze. I have heard some teachers recommend picturing your audience without clothes or see them dressed in clown suits. I disagree. Don’t take any of your mental energy to focus on your fears. As a speaker, you want your focus to be on connecting with the audience and envisioning how your message can enhance their lives. Your audience wants you to succeed and they are rooting for you. They have come to hear information from you that will improve their lives in some way. Share with them; like they stopped by your house and you are talking with them in your living room.
My biggest tip to public speakers is to practice, practice, practice. I ask my students to rehearse each speech 10 times—out loud—prior to delivery. At first they protest, but after trying out my suggestion, they realize it transforms their speaking skills and reduces anxiety. Thinking through the speech in your head doesn’t count. You need to get comfortable saying the words and hearing how the speech sounds.
The first 3 times you practice, your delivery will be pretty rough; don’t even practice in front of the dog! Make as many changes as you need to so that the message makes sense and you are highlighting the important points. Make sure you time yourself so you can ensure that the message fits your timeframe. During the forth through the seventh time, your message will begin to flow more smoothly and you will start remembering the words that you want to say. You can make minor changes at this point, but keep changes to a minimum. Your last 3 rehearsals will be about nailing the message. No more changes. Let me say that again—no more changes! If you make changes during your final few practices, you will forget which version you decided on when in front of the audience. All of my students tell me that this is one of the most important speaking tips they learned. So go forth and practice, practice, practice