Taking the Fear Out of Public Speaking

Glossophobia — the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general — comes from the Greek word glossa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear. It is characterized by an array of mental and physical responses — sweaty palms, increased heart rate, trembling, feeling of choking, and anxiety are just some of the symptoms an individual with Glossophobia may experience when standing in front of an audience. For an important business presentation or speech, the last thing you want to happen is to clam up and fumble your shot at nailing it. Like all phobias, however, it is possible to overcome ones fear of public speaking over time with the proper techniques, tricks, and practice. Here are some of those techniques and tricks I suggest trying:


1.    Prepare, prepare, prepare.

  • Your most important weapon in this fight against the fear of public speaking is to know your material. Know what you are talking about – know it like the back of your hand and practice it! Practice makes perfect. The last thing you want, additional to a crippling phobia of public speaking, is to not fully understand what you are speaking about or how to speak about it. After all, if you understand and practice the material you are presenting, it will do nothing but help add to your confidence and your performance.


2.    Use bullet points instead of scripts. 

  • Whether you are using a PowerPoint presentation or simple note cards, it is important to list bullet points for yourself in order to guide your ideas and train of thought. By using short points to sum up key points or ideas, you avoid a tedious script that may otherwise cause you to trip up if you stray from the exact wording. Plus you will sound a lot less like a monotonous robot. Remember not to use too many bullet points, however, or your presentation will look cluttered.


3. Start small.

  • Overcoming phobias takes small, gradual steps – one at a time. In order to build your confidence and comfort in front of an audience, try starting off with small groups to speak in front of before working your way up — this could be your significant other, your parents, a sibling, or a friend. Once you have mastered that and feel comfortable, move on to a small group of friends, classmates, or coworkers. And so on and so on. Don’t expect to throw yourself in front of a full lecture hall and deliver the next Presidential address right off the bat!


4.     Find a familiar face in the audience.

  • If you have friends or people that you know attending the presentation you are giving, try to have them sit close to the front so you are able to find their faces in the crowd. Making eye contact with a familiar face may help ease your nerves and can help you imagine that you are merely having a conversation with a friend. If you do not know anyone attending, try introducing yourself to some unfamiliar faces, perhaps letting them know you will be speaking and thanking them for coming.


5.    Engage your audience.

  • Format your presentation so that it is a two-way interaction, if possible. Making the audience apart of a conversation with you, rather than a body to lecture to, provides for a more interesting and engaging presentation. It will also allow you time and leeway to recollect your thoughts if you stray off track a bit.


6.    Don’t expect perfection.

  • Last but not least: don’t expect to be the most perfect public speaker to ever have been born. You don’t need to be the next Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins when it comes to public speaking — you just need to believe in yourself and be comfortable with your personal performance. So, if you weren’t born a natural public speaker that is okay. With the right amount of practice and confidence building, you will amaze yourself with your improvement.  

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