Fear of public speaking is one of the most common forms of anxiety in the country. In fact, nearly 22 million Americans admit to having extreme fear of speaking in public. Whether you experience slight nervousness or paralyzing fear, most of us feel some degree of stage fright when asked to speak in front of a group. Stage fright can be more than just a common fear. It can actually take a huge toll on some people, causing them to withdraw from school, leave a job, or pass up a promotion. Though it is a common fear shared by many, there are things you can do to improve your speaking skills and overcome your stage fright. Here are a few helpful tips that can help you overcome your fear and learn to speak confidently.
Shift the Focus from Yourself
It’s the feeling that everyone is staring at us and judging us that often makes us nervous to get up in front of a crowd. However, it’s important to realize that it’s not all about you! Speech anxiety has us so focused on ourselves that we forget about what really matters: the audience. Try shifting your focus from yourself to your purpose and what you can contribute to the audience.
Think Positive Thoughts
Stop scaring yourself with thoughts about everything that can go wrong and instead try reassuring yourself. The longer you stay focused on the negatives, the more difficult it becomes to overcome your fear. Turn negative and destructive thoughts into positive and calming thoughts. Visualize your success and remind yourself that you are capable. There really is power in positive thinking.
Know Your Topic
The better you know your topic and your materials, the more confident you will feel about delivering it. Do plenty of research and learn as much as you can about your topic so you feel like an expert. Take some time to consider what questions the audience might ask and how you will respond. Then, practice and rehearse your speech until you feel confident that you could deliver it in your sleep.
Practice Calming Techniques
If you feel yourself becoming anxious, try practicing some different techniques to calm and relax your body. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation are all great ways to relax your mind and body and calm your nerves.
Connect with the Audience
A great way to overcome stage fright is to connect with your audience. Spend a few minutes talking with them beforehand and smile at them the moment you step on stage. Building this connection allows you to see your audience as friends rather than enemies. Give them a proper greeting and let them know that you are happy to be there. They will appreciate your warmth and kindness and you will feel it in return.
Give up trying to be perfect and recognize that it’s OK to make mistakes. Instead of trying to be perfect, just try being yourself. The audience will appreciate your genuine authenticity. If you lose track, simply say so and pick up where you left off. If something goes wrong, don’t panic. Crack a joke about it or simply acknowledge that these things happen. Your audience is more understanding than you think.