Are you glossophobic? That's the fear of speaking in front of an audience, and scores of people have it. Call it stage fright or social anxiety, if you will. Glossophobia is a genuine concern for countless individuals, and this fear can be a serious stumbling block for career professionals.
How can you overcome a fear of public speaking?
Try these 10 tips for stress-free delivery of presentations before groups. Who knows? You might just discover your own freedom of speech.
1. Play to the mirror first.
Practice is essential, so why not start with a friendly listener? Start small. Talk to the mirror before you meet the microphone. Watch your facial expressions, and test your timing.
Like singing in the shower, lecturing the looking glass is an excellent exercise to eliminate stage fright.
2. Rehearse with a trusted audience.
Next, enlist a few confidantes to listen to your lecture. Gather a couple of friends or family members in a comfortable spot to hear your dry run.
3. Memorize your introduction.
The least stressed public speakers are always well prepared. Write out your speech. Transfer it to an outline, and commit the first few lines to memory. Once you get those out, you will be rolling.
4. Get plenty of rest.
Fatigue exacerbates nervousness, particularly for glossophobic individuals. Be deliberate about resting up as much as possible the night before your speech. Fresh and energized, you will be best able to pull it off with poise.
5. Dress for confidence.
Fussy clothing makes public speaking more nerve-wracking than it has to be. Skip jangling bangle bracelets, wiggling watches and other annoying accessories. Wear a tried and true outfit that makes you feel professional.
6. Carry an outline.
Although corporate executives, politicians and celebrities often deliver speeches from full manuscripts or teleprompters, many speakers prefer to work from basic outlines or index cards. Print content clearly in a large font. Don't forget your reading glasses, if you need them.
7. Make your nerves an ally.
A little stage fright can actually be a bonus, if the audience perceives it as animation or enthusiasm. Seasoned speakers learn to channel those upfront nerves into an energetic asset.
8. Don't picture people unclothed.
An old wives' tale insisted nervous orators could banish their fears by imagining their audiences were naked. Has this ever worked for any scared speaker? Such pornographic ponderings probably precipitated more blushing, rather than calm demeanors.
Here's a better approach. Focus on your content, rather than the audience's apparel or imagined lack of it.
9. Pick visual foci.
In fact, many public speaking fears can be minimized when presenters simply look over listeners' heads. Select a spot on the far wall, and glance there as often as possible.
Veteran speakers excel at eye contact, choosing key audience members for nods and glances. But nervous novices may do better to look more generally and avoid faces, if this improves their comfort levels while speaking.
10. Avoid over-thinking your presentation.
Giving a public speech is a necessary skill in many career endeavors and even in extra-curricular, church or community involvements. You may be tapped to make a toast at a wedding or a coworker's retirement party. Perhaps you will be asked to deliver a eulogy for a friend or family member someday. Maybe you will join a committee or become a board member and be called upon to present a proposal.
It's not a talent show, so it's important to keep from over-analyzing the process. Too many mind games can only add to your stress, if you are already nervous about taking the podium.
Just take a deep breath, and go ahead. Try to speak in a low and confident tone with a tempo that feels considerably slower than conversational. Anxious public speakers naturally speed up, so you may be surprised how quickly you finish your presentation.
Look up, smile proudly and tuck those notes away. You did it.
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Linda Ann Nickerson brings decades of reporting and a globally minded Midwestern perspective to a host of topics, balancing human interest with history, hard facts and often humor.