Everyone has to speak in public at some point in their lives: when presenting a paper in front of classmates, when presenting a project at a work meeting, or even when explaining to a doctor in their surgery, assisted by several trainees, what ails you suffer from. And the better you communicate, the clearer your message will be and the more likely you are to achieve your goal, be it a good grade, a promotion, or a solution to a health problem.
A good speaker leaves a mark on the listener and can influence other people’s decisions. This skill is especially valuable in the workplace, particularly in sales and public relations. Good public speaking produces tangible results: a salesperson, for example, sells more the better they know how to present their products and services in a clear, forceful, and impactful way.
However, doing it well is a complex task because fears can assail the speaker when establishing communication with his audience: the fear of being judged, not knowing how to answer the audience’s questions, or something going wrong. Negative emotions can ruin a well-prepared presentation.
How to overcome the fear of public speaking
1. Manage criticism.
One of a speaker’s first thoughts is that the audience members are analyzing them: from their wardrobe to their physical appearance and the way they express themselves. It is way harder than the life of essay writers where you are judged only by the things you write.
In our daily life, we are constantly exposed to the judgment of others in any environment: walking down the street or on social networks. And we have to assume that someone will be giving an opinion about us in any situation and that nothing happens because of it.
Poorly managed self-esteem can play a dirty trick. Therefore, it is important to be clear that the audience only sees part of the speaker’s personality on stage. If they applaud, they are not applauding a speaker as a person but as a professional. The foundations on which the self-concept rests are much broader than what the audience sees when you are giving a talk. If you are clear about this, it won’t be so threatening to be judged.
2. Be able to laugh at yourself.
The fear of being judged creates another fear – the fear of making a fool of yourself. A stumble or a slip-up can leave the speaker feeling embarrassed and prevent them from continuing or undermining their confidence for the rest of their speech. Taking the initiative and laughing at the situation is a solution that reduces the importance of failure. A great way to get rid of this fear of ridicule is to learn to laugh at oneself.
If you feel at ease on stage, others will also feel at ease in their seats. Try being active in social networks if you want to train this ability. Uploading videos to a digital platform talking about a subject you feel confident about is a good start. TikTok is a good channel for this because you are exposed to other opinions, and you will be able to cultivate a rhinoceros skin, tough enough for negative comments to slide off. It’s not about exposing personal information but talking about more friendly topics, such as hobbies.
3. Internalize the message of the presentation, not the exact script.
There is often a fear of drawing a blank, which can happen when you are unclear about the message of your speech. You don’t know what to say as soon as you forget a keyword or phrase. To avoid this, it is better to internalize an outline of the presentation to follow the thread and externalize your ideas in your own words.
This way of exposition encourages concentration and leaves no room for fear-triggering thoughts. On the other hand, if you have the speech learned by heart, you free up many cognitive resources such as sight or hearing to pay attention to thoughts such as the suspicion that someone is looking disapprovingly or that there are dangers, such as unevenness that poses a risk of falling.
4. Respond to the audience’s doubts.
The speaker must humbly assume that there will always be someone in the audience who has a question that they have not asked. The best thing to do is recognize that you don’t have the answer and commit to finding it. You can guarantee the audience that you will look for the information and transmit it to them through the agreed channel. You can do this by email or through a social network.
5. Capitalize on emotions.
Being moderately excited or nervous is positive as long as this emotion is channeled, as it allows the speaker to devote themselves to what they are doing in the present. When it gets out of control, problems arise. However, only a tiny part of this state of mind is transmitted to the audience. If it is not verbalized to others, they do not perceive it, so it is important not to tell them.
What determines whether nerves play a bad trick on the speaker is the label they are given. If they are approached negatively – with thoughts such as “they will realize that I don’t know that much about the subject or they will fire me” – it triggers nervousness that blocks the speaker. If faced positively – “I can finally present this product” or “I believe that my words will help the listener” – it generates an exciting restlessness that allows the speaker to continue. The best way to combat fear is to put something alternative in its place, such as passion.
Emotions are contagious, as well as rapture and enthusiasm, so adding enthusiasm to the discourse awakens the audience’s interest. If you tell things lazily, the audience won’t like it. That’s why you shouldn’t neglect enthusiasm, even if you’re talking about the company’s accounts and the figures are very bad.
6. Deal with the unexpected.
The possibilities for failures when speaking in public are infinite: technical difficulties, an apathetic audience, falls. For this reason, as with the fear of making a fool of yourself, you have to deal with these setbacks naturally, recognize that something unexpected has happened, and work to overcome it.
A good speaker can make the most of their personality. If seriousness is their main trait, for example, they should not fight against it but rather guide it so that it helps to get the message across. The speaker is not an actor but rather their original self, enhanced by the oratory knowledge they have acquired
Overcoming fears requires lots of practice.
Rehearsing is the only way to overcome public speaking fears. Taking a public speaking course helps identify the student’s strong points and areas for improvement, but there will be no improvement without continuous practice. For this reason, the best recommendation is to record yourself, both in audio and video, and pay attention to all the elements: intonation, tempo, movements, and intensity
In order to improve, you have to be constant and persistent. Listening to ourselves and watching ourselves over and over again is the only way to get used to ourselves and make progress.
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