How can I overcome my fear of public speaking?

A few years back I would have gladly hidden under a desk instead of standing up to speak in front of a room full of  people. Naturally, I am more introverted (think before I speak) rather than leading with extroversion (the preference that speaks to think). So why you may ask do I enjoy training workshops and leading inspirational talks? In this blog I am going to explain why I now enjoy public speak whilst providing you with 5 top tips to help you overcome your nerves.

As I mentioned above I used to dread speaking in public. I severely lacked confidence in the importance of my voice and opinion early in my career and it was not until I worked with a coach to develop my own confidence did my fear of public speaking lessen. Having faith that your viewpoint and experience will help at least one person in the room is enough to provide you with more confidence to put your view point across.

1) Preparation

Planning the main points you want to cover in your meeting, talk or workshop is crucial to a successful outcome. Having a clear purpose and objectives that you want your audience to achieve is a great way to start.

  • Why are you part of the meeting?
  • Who are your audience?
  • What value will you bring to your audience?
  • What key message do you want each delegate to leave with?
  • What anecdotes and experience will you share to bring your topic to life and keep the audience engaged?
  • Do you need any visual aids or AV?  (In my experience less is more – we have all experienced death my PowerPoint.)
  • Where is your venue located?
  • Final preparation for me would be arriving in plenty of time to ensure that you are set up well ahead of time.

2) Focusing on your state

Fundamental to speaking confidently is your physical state.  You will have experienced a speaker or colleague who looks nervous before starting to speak never mind whilst they shuffle about their notes or use the same buzz words over and over. We have all been there, but taking 10 minutes to compose yourself, get your head around how you will open your talk or part of the meeting and to centre yourself is the most crucial part of any presentation you will give. If you are feeling overwhelmed a few things that have worked for me:

  • Watching short motivational videos (contact me if you would like some specific links to some fab ones I use)
  • Briefly meditating before you start your talk (guided meditation can be found on YouTube)
  • A pep talk from a loved one
  •  Positive self talk
  • Visualising the outcome you want to achieve
  • Listening to some of your favourite music

3) Handling Challenges & Questions

Ask yourself the question:

What is the worst that can happen?

When you are feeling overwhelmed in your preparation by the task in hand, the above question will help to centre you to the reality that your presentation, talk or training may be daunting but it is unlikely that anything truly awful will happen. You may get a tricky question or someone who is not engaged, but that’s part of speaking in public or being part of meetings and don’t let that put you off.

Any questions and challenges show engagement. Having a way to handle people who are being obstructive is a great means of preparation.  The below questions work well in trying to get to to the root of an issue if someone is constantly interrupting or being obstructive. These are usually enough to diffuse anyone who is being obstructive:

  • Would you like me to explain something further?
  • Is everything ok?

Also, remembering if you get asked something you are unsure of the answer all you need to respond with is that you will find out for the individual and get back to them after the event. This is much more confident than waffling through an answer you are unsure is factual.

4) Be Yourself

The best presenters and public speakers bring their personality into everything they do. Don’t feel like you have to talk like someone else you have seen, you will have most impact when you are yourself and speak with passion. Don’t feel like you have to be serious in your talk, bringing humour and fun will engage the audience. Similarly, don’t feel like you have to be a comedian to make an impact, simply being you is more than good enough.

You have been asked to be part of a meeting, lead a talk or facilitate a workshop so others have already given you the credibility and authority in a specific area, all you need to do is recognise that you can and will add value, speak with confidence and get feedback post event. Every time you speak in public you will improve and become more confident.

What has been the scariest event you have ever spoken at? How did you overcome your nerves?

I would love to hear from you at info@brightsideinspiration.com, and I would be delighted to share some more of my experience of public speaking.

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