Good communication skills are essential in business. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to speak in public. Daunting, we realise, but public speaking is a skill you can build and improve, and which you should master. Ducking it could be damaging you in business and in life.

We don’t want that to happen to you. This post is all about overcoming the fear of public speaking. You’ll learn why we fear public speaking and what drives this fear, and you’ll receive tips on how to conquer the fear of speaking in front of others. 

Why do we fear public speaking?

One of the main theories is that this goes back to our evolution. We used to survive by living in large groups, and separation or isolation from the group made death imminent. When we speak in public, we’re separate from the group (the audience), and our body interprets this as a threatening situation.

Another theory suggests that when we’re feeling anxious, we pick out angry faces easier. We could be speaking superbly: but we’ll only notice the one face not enjoying what we’re saying.

What causes our fear of public speaking?

Public speaking makes us afraid… very afraid. When we’re speaking, we contend with lots of underlying fears, such as: 

  • fear of looking nervous — we think if we look nervous, we’ll look as if we don’t know our subject;
  • fear of making a mistake — we’re frightened of making a mistake and appearing foolish on stage;
  • fear of being ‘found out’ (imposter syndrome) — we think we’re not ‘expert’ enough and could be exposed as a ‘fraud’; 
  • fear of being in front of professional peers — we fear the judgment of people who are qualified to judge because they know as much as we do or more. 

How to overcome your fear of public speaking

Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is conquerable. The tips below will help you make this possible.

Organise your talk

Structuring your speech, talk, or presentation and ordering your thoughts will help to keep you calm. This organisation will enable you to just focus on delivering the speech and take the edge off your anxiety. Think about the purpose of your talk so you can organise the material in the most effective way.

Think about flow and patterns

Aim to get into a flow or pattern when you speak. Keep sentences short and repeat key points so your audience can take them in. Pause slightly between points to add anticipation to what you’re going to say next.

Record yourself and learn your voice

You’ve got to get used to how you sound. The more you hear yourself speaking formally, the easier you’ll find it to deliver your actual talk.

Record yourself giving your talk, either on phone or on camera. How do you sound? Make notes and see how you can improve it. You might sound or look more authoritative than you thought. Excellent.

Breathe

Learn to breathe correctly. To deliver a powerful, resonant, and authoritative-sounding speech requires diaphragmatic breathing or, as it’s also known, ‘belly breathing’. This provides a full reservoir of oxygen to support your voice better. 

Good breathing will help you to feel calm while you give your talk. You’ll look confident and in control, and the breath will support your sentences to the end, which is where the important words come.

Don’t talk too fast

Speak slowly. Making a conscious effort to slow down and not hurtle through your speech will make you less likely to stumble over your words.

Talking too fast will interfere with your breathing patterns, bumping up your fear and causing you to panic, whereas speaking slowly will help you to feel calmer.

Focus on the material

Focus on the material and on how you’re delivering it, not on the audience. They’re interested in the content of your speech and will be focusing on that. They may not even notice if you’re feeling nervous. Even if they do, they’ll be silently cheering you on inside. 

Practise, practise, and practise some more

The more you practise, the more confident you become, so practise repeatedly until you know your material inside out. Prepare yourself so well you can answer any questions your audience might throw at you.

Start by practising alone at home. The aim is to eliminate discomfort from your surroundings so you can focus solely on what you’re saying.

Then rehearse in front of an audience. Don’t take it personally if they mention something you’re doing wrong — use it to improve your talk. 

Improve your public speaking

Fear of public speaking is very natural, but you can address it. Try our Public Speaking Masterclass. The course is one of several we offer for mid- and senior-level managers to improve their skills and will cover the different elements of public speaking. Whether you have no experience or already do public speaking but want to take your skills to the next level, the course will help you become an effective public speaker.

Get in touch with us to find out more about the masterclass or any of our other accredited courses. You can reach us at enquiries@inpd.co.uk or by sending us a message via our Contact Page. You can also chat with us directly on 0161 826 5843. We’re here to support you.

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