Jerry Seinfeld summed it up when noting that the #1 fear people have is public speaking, followed by death at #2. “That means that to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
We all get nervous sometimes, the key is to not let those feelings cripple you or derail your presentation. Here are a few tips and tricks to fight the anxiety that haunts many a speaker.
The best advice for any novice speaker is to start small. Speak up in the conference room, stand up and ask questions of speakers at larger events, or address a familiar crowd of friends. By being free from the anxiety of being the center of attention of strangers, the seeds of confidence can grow towards larger things.
Don’t be you own worst enemy. Realize the difference of preparing for curveballs and over-worrying. Visualizing the multitude of possible things that can go wrong will only make matters worse — after all that list is endless. Much better would be a small list of more probable, though unlikely, problems such as A/V issues, losing your place, etc. — and preparing for those. Have a joke in place for when the mic goes out, and have outlines rather than transcripts to keep you flowing.
Slow Down. Breathe. Relax. Public speaking anxiety, when you’re up there, is a result of adrenaline. This can be overcome in many ways without the audience ever knowing you’re doing it. Make some important points more slowly, which simultaneously calms you down while emphasizing your message. The same goes for pauses. When transitioning from one concept to the next, use that pause to breathe deeply, possibly take a drink of water, and let your ideas sink in a bit. A FoxBusiness article astutely notes, “A moment of pause is far less memorable than a moment of panic.”
Plant a Friend Up Front/Dwell on the Positive
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to have a plant in the front row — someone you know and trust, who works like an affirmation lifesaver should you find yourself flailing. Simple eye contact, and a nod or smile can work wonders on the mid-speech jitters.
Remember your Victories: This one is helpful for those whose anxiety is greatest before the speech, the “What if I forget EVERYTHING?” kind of worrier. After a successful presentation, when you are being complimented by your peers, bottle up that feeling so you can remind yourself how good it felt after — that you’re not going to go blank, and that nobody realized you were nervous that time, either.
Rehearse and Review
Once you start using SpeakerScore, you can revisit the feedback you receive from your audience and use it to figure out how to improve, thus building your confidence. By practicing your speech with the insights you gleaned from your SpeakerScore evaluations and comments, you can polish your skills and banish the jitters for good!