Aid! You have to speak in front of a crowd. Will this audience be hostile or boring? Will you forget what you mean? Dozens of negative thoughts run through her mind as she begins to prepare for her speech.

The big day arrives for you to make your presentation. Your palms are sweaty, you feel your heart pounding, and your mind seems to go blank. You feel a lump in your throat and your mouth is dry. You would do anything to get out of this moment.

It’s not uncommon for new and even experienced speakers to be afraid of public speaking. In fact, some people fear public speaking more than they fear death!

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Why are people afraid to speak in front of a group?

1. All eyes are on you and you are center stage. It seems unnatural. It’s not the comfortable one-on-one conversation where there are pauses in the dialogue.

2. Concern for what others think. Most of us are too concerned with what others think of us. Rather than risk speaking in front of a group, we prefer to avoid placing ourselves in what we think is a vulnerable or frightening situation.

  1. Fear to fail. We worry that we will forget what we wanted to say and be humiliated and embarrassed and therefore “fail” when we deliver a speech.

We can conclude that the root of the problem begins and ends with you. What can you do to combat fear?

SECRETS TO OVERCOME FEAR

An important way to overcome fear is to accept that you are afraid.

“Okay, I feel very uncomfortable and afraid to give a speech in front of a group.” (Acknowledge your feelings; don’t try to avoid or deny them.)

Next, believe that you are capable of speaking about what you are going to speak about.

“Even though I’m scared, I know what I’m talking about. I spent a lot of time writing my speech, thinking about it, and practicing. I even did enough research.” (Research gives him the confidence he needs.)

When you recognize that you are afraid, you can say to yourself, “I am afraid, but I know there is something I can do to change my thoughts and deal with my worries.”

TIPS TO BELIEVE THAT WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY IS IMPORTANT

1. Agree that you are ready to talk about what you are going to talk about. If you’ve prepared and practiced and are sincere about your topic, the audience will probably listen to what you have to say.

2. Know that you are the expert of your own material. You wrote your speech and no one will know if you forgot to mention something.

3. Believe that your audience will be interested in what you have to say. Find ways to say things that entertain and relax your audience. Be friendly and think of your speech as a conversation with a group of friends.

Confidence increases when you select a topic that interests and concerns you. Determine the purpose of your speech and gather background information. Prepare your speech to the best of your ability and believe that your audience wants to hear what you have to say.

SOME EXERCISES TO GET GOING

While you may be prepared and ready to give your speech, you may experience some stress right before your presentation. The following exercises can help you relax.

  1. Breathe. Take a deep breath 30 seconds before you start to speak. Inhale and exhale five or six times. The increased supply of oxygen to the brain may be enough to give you the courage to start. You can do this quietly before being introduced.

  1. Think positively: “The audience wants to hear what I have to say. Nothing bad can happen to me. They want me to succeed. I know my stuff. I’m ready. My mind is free and clear.”

RECOVERY AFTER A “SHAMEFUL” OR “FAILED” SPEECH

After you give your speech, you may have the thought, “Damn, I forgot to mention a key point. I practiced this and left it out.” Or “I feel like a fool. I don’t think my speech went well.” Instead of worrying about things that went wrong, think about what you did right.

Instead of labeling yourself a failure, tell yourself that (1) you have skills and talents, (2) you will work to improve, and (3) greatness is something that comes with practice and time.

The fear of public speaking afflicts many people. The good news is that there are techniques to learn to manage fear. Practice the methods listed above and feel your fear melt away.

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