Your Fear of Public Speaking
knees, butterflies (who came up with that word?)
in your stomach, sweaty palms, quavering voice.
We've all been there - some of us more than others.
I'm going to share with you some of the tricks
of the trade to help manage and reduce your anxiety
before and during your presentation. These methods
are tried and true and have helped many presenters.
first time is always the worst and it gets better
In 1991, I gave my first presentation to a large
audience. My audience was 150 fifth and six grade
students in an outside courtyard of an elementary
school. I was scheduled to give a 35-minute student
assembly that explained a collection of international
artifacts (masks, musical instruments, hats, and
other interesting items). It was a program designed
to increase multicultural understanding. I was
so fired up about the topic, and thought that
it was such an important subject that I thought
I could deliver the program.
of course everything went wrong! The wind picked
up and knocked some of the items off the display
table (the kids thought this was funny, I didn't).
The microphone had that horrible screeching feedback.
My knees shook the whole time, my voice quavered,
my heart pounded - and I felt like it was going
on forever. I got through my content somehow and
looked at my watch. I gave a 35-minute presentation
in 15-minutes! I think that I probably forgot
packing up my items and loading them in my car,
I collapsed in the driver's seat. When my heart
starting beating normally, I had a realization.
My realization was that I did deliver the program,
yes-terribly, but I did finish it and it would
probably never again be that bad. From that point
on, I learned something from every program I gave;
how to keep the audience engaged, how to test
AV equipment BEFORE I started, how to breathe
normally and speak at the same time. The list
goes on and on. In three years, I delivered this
program to more than 100,000 students and teachers.
I help adults develop the skills of public speaking.
It seems that everyone has some degree of nervousness
or anxiety. What I know is that you can live through
those feelings and that over time they get easier
and easier to deal with. Give these strategies
a try and see if they will help you too.
about having a conversation?
Use your mental energy to think of your next presentation
as a conversation. You have conversations all
day, every day! Do you get nervous before a conversation?
Most conversations are non-threatening experiences,
just a way for two or more people to communicate
something. How is a presentation different than
that? Try to think of your presentation as a conversation,
just with a few more people. See if that eases
your mind and nerves.
some new friends in the audience.
Most people are nervous in front of an audience
of strangers. What would happen if you had a friend
in the audience, or a group of friends? Would
you feel more comfortable? Next time you have
to give a presentation to a group you don't know
- do something revolutionary! Introduce yourself,
shake hands, and greet as many of the audience
as possible before your talk begins. That way,
when you're standing in the front of the room
looking out, it is no longer a sea of strangers,
but a friendly group, because you met some of
the people first. You'll want to find them in
the audience and make eye contact, and it won't
be too hard, because they'll probably be smiling
yourself in your audience's shoes for a moment.
Imagine that you are attending a special seminar
at work. How would you feel if before the seminar,
the speaker took a moment to introduce herself
to you? Would you be a more receptive listener
to what she had to say? I bet your answer is yes!
Smiling has a physiological affect on us - it
helps to calm our nerves and make us feel better.
It also has the added bonus of making us appear
more pleasant, comfortable and happy - definite
positive characteristics of a presenter. Often
times, the audience will mirror the expression
of the presenter. So guess what happens when you
smile? You got it; your audience will be more
likely to smile back at you.
You've just learned some simple, yet effective,
techniques to help reduce and manage nervousness
while giving a presentation. I challenge you to
try them out and see if they work for you. Remember
Have a conversation with your audience.
some new friends before your presentation.
It just might prove infectious and make you
feel a whole lot more at ease!
from every presentation you give and you'll
see that it does get easier and easier.
Bristol-Smith is the founder of Speak
for Success, an organization that works with companies
who want their people to communicate with confidence
and credibility. She is a professional speaker
and trainer who has survived stage fright and
is passionate about helping others get past the
fears and discomfort of public speaking. She works
with the private and public sector and has delivered
presentations and training to more than 100,000
people since 1992. Some of her clients include
Agouron Pharmaceuticals a Pfizer Company, Honeywell
Aerospace, Prescription Solutions, Regional Training
Center, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and many
City and County agencies.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org