Last week, I was in a meeting when the lady next to me admitted she was deathly scared of speaking. The statement reminded me of how afraid I used to be and I told her I knew exactly how she felt. I used to feel sick to my stomach when I had to speak. I tried to understand what had changed.
Where does the fear come from?
- Fear comes from insecurity and sometimes from being an introvert. It’s when we’re embarrassed of being the center of attention.
- It comes from a belief that we will be judged as “not good enough”.
- Fear comes from memories of bad experiences.
- Fear comes from not being prepared in advance.
- Fear comes from a lack of knowledge of how to speak and connect with an audience.
- Some people stutter and are extremely nervous of speaking.
- Fear is about our inner fear or a past bad experience. Audiences want us to succeed because they want to hear what we have to say. They will support us because they know how scary speaking can be, we can tell this because people often nod their encouragement in the audience. Think of when someone has forgotten their speech.. do you think “loser!” or do you think “you’ve got this.. try to remember!”? We all pull for people who are trying their best.
- Some people are natural speakers. There are other areas they can develop and improve, such as where to stand on stage, how to address the audience, how to start a speech. You can get better if you believe you can improve.
- Believe it or not, speaking is like climbing a ladder, the more you do it, the easier it gets. You need to keep speaking, keep practicing, in order to become more relaxed. If you have a speaking engagement.. a wedding speech, a eulogy, a company presentation, don’t ad lib. Think of what you want to say and how best to say it.
- There are techniques to speaking, three simple ones are: make eye contact (even turn now to those behind you if you are in rows of people), slow down your words, make your voice louder (it’s common for people to speak quietly when they’re nervous).
- If you are nervous, concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath in, hold it, then breath out… repeat. It will calm you before speaking.
- If you get a chance, do some exercise, but don’t get out of breath, just energize yourself. Try jumping up and down or running on the spot.
- Beforehand sing a song or say a phrase or verse which energizes you or will make you feel calm, depending on what you want to portray.
- Stand or sit with a confident smile before you begin, this will give you balance.
- Shake out your nerves.. literally. If you can before you speak, shake your arms out to your hands, shake your legs out to your feet. Get those tremors out of your body!
- Practice saying the letters of the alphabet clearly and succinctly.
There’s obviously more tips and tricks. These are basic and hopefully will help you the next time you are speaking at a wedding, remembrance service or at a presentation.