Working as a Public Speaking Consultant, as well as winning several Public Speaking Championships encouraged a lot of people to ask me ‘’ I am afraid of speaking in public, what can I do to get rid of my fear?’’. And I always answered by making one important thing clear ‘’You will never get rid of your fear. You can only try to control it and make it a supporting factor to succeed.’’
Don’t you believe that this is possible? Take a look at my video below in the North, Middle, and East Europe Championship of Public Speaking 2015.
If you are like most people who watched this video, then maybe you will think that I was not nervous or afraid, but in reality, I was. The only difference is that I was able to control my nervousness and make it work for me and not against me and that’s why you maybe did not realize it.
So the right question to ask now is ‘’how to control your fear?’’. And honestly speaking, each time I am asked this question I feel that people are expecting some unique unbelievable never tried before tricks. Tricks which they can apply instantaneously without effort. So today I will answer this question but from a different angle. I will tell you what the majority of people are already doing which is exactly the reason why they are not improving their speaking skills or taking control of their stage fright.
1-They avoid speaking opportunities, and they speak only when they ‘’must’’.
Public speaking is like any skill. The more you speak in public, the more you improve and the better you are in controlling your fear. Furthermore, speaking in public regularly will make you gain experience and skills to handle unexpected speaking situations.
So if you want to improve your public speaking skills ask yourself ‘’How many times have I spoke in public through the past year?’’.
2-They do not practice properly.
Aristotle once said ‘’we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit’’.
How do you prepare for a speech? Do you prepare only 1 or 2 days before the speech day?
If you want to give a great speech, you have to practice for some days or even weeks before the speech day. And if it’s an important speech for you, you have to go and rehearse it in front of different people before you deliver it. You have to get used to the structure, the flow of information and transitions. You also have to plan ahead some things such as how you will move, when you will pause and when are you going to use your voice variety to give more emphasis to a specific point in the speech.
You will never prepare all of this except by giving yourself time to practice and by practicing the right way. Reading the script or the main points of your speech one or two days before your speech day is never enough.
3-They do not know their audience. And if they do, they do not know their concerns.
Ever went to a specific event to listen to a speaker and you felt disconnected, bored, or even left the place after ten minutes? This is because the speaker was most probably speaking about a topic which is not relevant to you.
If you are going to give a speech, you have to make sure that your speech will connect with the audience by solving their issues and problems, and address a concern that they are thinking about. The worst thing that you can do is to speak about a topic which is interesting for you only.
If you are a speaker and you did not connect with the audience, you will see it on their faces and actions during the speech. And this will make you more nervous and worried during the rest of your speech because you will always have the impression that your speech is boring for the audience.
4-They are focused too much on their speech to the extent that they do not connect or socialize with their audience before the speech.
A speech is a bigger version of a conversation that you hold with your friends. The difference is that you know your friends very well, so you are not worried to mention your opinion openly in front of them even if they criticize you. You simply do not worry much if their opinion will be aligned with yours or not; you just care to share your opinion and listen to theirs and hence start a discussion.
The speech is almost the same. So if you want to have the same feeling that I mentioned above, go early during your speech day, smile and socialize with your audience. Build connections with them. The moment that you will be giving your speech you will find the people that you socialized with looking at you and smiling because they feel that they know you personally. This can make you feel relaxed. And during your speech, you can always turn your attention to these people and smile to them to gain more confidence, or even you can refer to a discussion that you had with one of them.
5-They go just in time for their speech.
Another benefit of going early to a speech is that you get the chance to get familiar with the place. You can visualize how you will speak and prepare yourself and your equipment (Laptop, Microphone…etc.) ahead of time to avoid sudden surprises.
There is a huge difference between starting your speech relaxed and not feeling under pressure because you are feeling familiar with the place and prepared your supporting tools, and when you feel as a ‘’foreigner’’ and under pressure, because you arrived late or just in time.
6-They visualize failure and lots of negative ‘’What if’s…..’’.
Have you ever passed through a seriously embarrassing moment while giving a speech? And I am not speaking here about if you felt good or bad about yourself when you gave that speech, I am speaking about a SERIOUS, embarrassing moment.
Well, let me tell you this: Most people did not pass through a severe embarrassing situation while they are speaking, but they still expect and visualize only embarrassing moments and failure before they give a speech in public.
Do not allow illusions to take control of your brain. And whenever you give a new speech, remember all the previous successful moments. See the pattern and have the self-awareness to realize that this tension and worries before speaking is normal and is happening all the time, and instead of accepting your negative thoughts and moving with them stop them and think positive. Remind yourself that all of your previous speeches started with worries and maybe fear of what will happen during the speech but in the end, all of them ended in a good way.
Avoid the above mentioned 6 points and see your public speaking skills transform.