Public Speaking: How To Reduce Your Fear
Earlier this week, my question of the week asked what techniques you use to reduce your fear while speaking in public. I received a wide variety of responses, ranging from tricks from the acting trade to a clever video. The diversity of your answers reinforced a long-held belief of mine.
More on that later in this article. First, here are some of the techniques you suggested:
Jay Averill wrote: “The best way to overcome the fear is also the hardest. Practice. Know your content exceptionally well and practice.”
Laurie C said: “I use a trick from learning to sing — concentrate all your tension in one part of your body (I make a fist) and then release it as you speak. Don’t tense up any other muscles. For some reason, this keeps my voice from fluttering up and down the scale.”
Rob Riordan said: “It really helps to arrive early at presentations and mingle with the audience at a break or in advance. You don’t want to be a stranger to them. Introduce yourself and make a personal connection with at least a few of the audience.”
Simon provided a link to a terrific video focused on widening your field of vision: “Given that what I do is train people to make presentations and this is one of the most common issues people come to me with, I guess I’d better chip in…this video might help.”
Leigh Ann Otte said: “One of the keys is to address [nervousness] and accept it as normal before letting it overwhelm you…use the nerves. (I learned this technique from training in acting.) I channel them into energy instead of fear.”
Matt Eventoff, a friend and frequent collaborator, wrote: “There are myriad breathing techniques and physical adjustments that will not “cure” a fear or fright, but will certainly alleviate some degree of stress when fright strikes – my favorites are here.”
Judi Hopper wrote: “I construct an image of the audience that endears them to me, making my presentation then, almost like a gift of love. I do this by thinking of them as children.”
Hope Clark said: “I get nervous before every presentation – actually published a book called THE SHY WRITER: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success…I make eye contact with one person as I’m saying a sentence. It’s a one-on-one conversation. The next sentence is with another attendee. And so on.”
See the comment section here to read the full comments.
The variety of your answers reinforced a long-held belief of mine: that different people feel fear for a wide range of reasons, and that solutions don’t come in one-size-fits-all packages.
In order to help clients overcome (or more realistically, manage) their fears, I first ask them what, specifically, they’re afraid of. Their answers are often similar, but they occasionally surprise me. Only after I understand the root of their fears can I make recommendations to help the trainee address them. The client who fears looking bad in front of his boss is going to need a different solution than the person who hates getting up in front of crowds because she hates the shape of her nose.
I’ll leave you with a tip that often helps me: I imagine that the audience has had a horrible week. They are desperate for something upbeat and enlightening, so I imagine I have the ability to deliver something that improves their mood. That helps me manage my fears because the speech is suddenly no longer about me. It’s about them.
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Your answers to previous questions of the week:
Should You Ask Reporters For Questions Before an Interview?
What Should You Do When Reporters Know Something You Wish They Didn’t?
What Should You Do as a Spokesperson When You’re Forced To Promote a Party Line You Disagree With?