It happens. You step up to the podium or in front of your office and suddenly, your palms are sweaty, your heart rate increases, and you might even forget your speech. Even experienced public speakers can get nervous or afraid before a big presentation. Luckily, public speaking is a skill that can be mastered by anyone – it just takes practice!
Before you beat yourself up about your fear of public speaking, you should know it’s in our DNA. When our ancestors faced a risk, it was often life-threatening and required a shot of adrenaline to survive. Unfortunately, today that “fight or flight” response still manifests itself in risky (but not deadly) situations like giving a speech. The adrenaline creates those physical symptoms that exaggerate everything you are experiencing, like sweaty palms.
These five tips will help you overcome your fear of public speaking to feel confident during your next presentation.
- Speak from the heart
If you can, choose a topic for your presentation that you are passionate about. Even if it is a dry subject, include personal antidotes that will help you and the audience connect with what you are saying. If you don’t write a presentation that is easy to understand and relate to, your audience won’t listen, and at that point you might as well just send an email. Your enthusiasm is your best sales tool, and the more you care about it, the more your audience will as well.
- Practice for performance
Going over your notes in your car before you walk into a speaking engagement is not going to set you up for success. When you practice your speech, practice it the way you will perform it. Put on your planned outfit, set up your Power Point, and practice for a coworker or family member if possible. Practicing standing and saying your speech loudly and clearly, using whichever notes you plan on using, and even borrowing a conference room to practice is key. Simulating the performance space acclimates you to the demands of your speech. It will help you calm your nerves on the day of, because you’ll feel like you’ve already done it!
- Plan Ahead
If you get anxious about things going wrong during your presentation, make a game plan. Figure out what you‘ll do if your presentation gets turned off, you can’t find your note cards, you trip and fall, you need to take a sip of water, and other potential mishaps. When you have a plan of action, if it does end up happening during your speech, you’ll know what to do. In the end, your goal should always be to avoid drawing attention to what went wrong. Simply keep smiling and forge ahead!
- Distract yourself
Right before your speech, you might feel nerves starting to kick in. Try a technique of distracting yourself to burn off the extra energy. You could try:
- Taking a walk/job through the building or parking lot.
- Using tongue twisters.
- Doing a vocal warm-up.
- Speaking with your coworkers or whoever is in the room to get your mind off the speech.
Being aware of your breath gives you control of your nerves. Do some deep breathing before and during your presentation calms your nerves, plus it adds power and strength to your voice. Right before you begin, stand with your legs apart and do five deep breaths in and out. Stretching side to side to loosen your ribs will also help you breathe better. When you warm your body up properly, it will be easier to breathe even as you get nervous.
The best way to overcome your fear is to face it, so offer to speak at the next company meeting and give these tips a try.