Do You Fear Speaking in Public?

How many of us have a fear of speaking in public?  The word “speaking” is easy enough to understand, but the word “public” is a little more complex in the equation.  Public can be anything from a one-on-one conversation with a friend to speaking in front of thousands at the Rose Bowl.

Alhough some theorists believe that the principles of public speaking remain the same regardless of the audience size (others disagree), there does seem to be some agreement as to how to begin to overcome a fear of speaking to others, whether it is just to close friends or an audience of thousands – or even millions!

These 8 steps may help when speaking in public

The world-renowned Mayo Clinic offers some suggestions as to how you can begin to address your irrational concerns, and put yourself on the road to becoming an effective public speaker!  These steps may help:

  • Know your topic.  The better you understand what you’re talking about, the better!  What a confidence-builder it is to know that you can defend your thoughts and positions.
  • Get organized. If you have the time to do so, carefully plan the information you want to present. Naturally, the more organized you are, the less nervous you'll be. If speaking before a large audience, use an outline on a small card to help you stay on track.
  • Practice. Rehearsal gives you confidence. First, practicing in front of people with whom you are comfortable will give you honest feedback.  Then maybe try practicing with people that you do not know, to help you build more confidence?
  • Challenge specific worries. We have a tendency to over-fear some of the bad things that we sense to be our shortcomings.  As the Mayo Clinic notes” “When you're afraid of something, you may overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening.” Directly challenge each of your concerns, and put them to rest.  They are not as powerful as you think!
  • Visualize your success. Imagine that your presentation will go well. See the standing ovation you are going to receive!  Positive thoughts! Positive thoughts!!
  • Do some deep breathing. This can be very calming. Take two or more deep, slow breaths before you get up to the podium and during your speech.
  • Focus on your material, not on your audience. Your audience will pay attention to your new information and the way you present it, not you as the presenter.  In fact (unless you’re famous already) people will tend to not even remember who you are, especially if you are giving them new stuff.  They may not even notice that you are nervous.  Believe it or not, you audience mostly wants you to be successful!
  • Get support. Join a group that offers support for people who have difficulty with public speaking. One effective resource is Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization with local chapters that focuses on training people in speaking and leadership skills.  There is a chapter of Toastmasters in Prague…

These are just a few tips that can be useful, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic (see the website).  However, remember that fears are psychological constructs.  YOU decide that you have them, and YOU can overcome them. Deciding yourself that you are no longer going to be a victim of your fear is the first step in overcoming it.  The fear of public speaking is no different.



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