Public speaking is something most people are scared of. Whether it’s the fear of messing up in front of an audience or the paralyzing fear of speaking situations altogether, public speaking is something many people want to avoid.
So, what happens when your boss requires that you speak publicly in front of the company or at an event? In this instance, it’s not always possible to avoid public speaking and so, the fear is something you have to overcome.
If you are required to speak publicly and the thought is freaking you out, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we will be sharing how you can overcome anxiety when public speaking at your next event.
- Know Your Speaking Topic
There are few things worse than scrambling for the words to say while standing in front of a crowd. The silence feels heavy, there are awkward coughs coming from the audience, and you feel like you’re sweating uncontrollably.
To avoid this horrible situation and to decrease the anxiety you feel, it’s important to know your topic inside and out. We suggest rehearsing as much as you can in the lead-up to your talk to ensure you know exactly what you need to say. The more you know about your topic, the more confident you will feel.
- Be Prepared to Answer Questions
A big part of preparing to speak publically is preparation. Not only should you know your speaking topic inside and out, but you should also be prepared to answer questions. No matter how thorough your talk is, it’s likely your audience will have questions and you should know how to answer them.
Answering questions cause many people to feel unnecessarily anxious. You might be worried about knowing the answer or stumbling over your words. Whatever your fears, you can quench them by thoroughly preparing. Consider the questions your audience might ask and be prepared to provide the answers. Again, the more you know about your topic, the better prepared you will be.
- Avoid Filling the Silences
When it comes to public speaking, fear of silence is something that puts many people off. Have you ever told a joke to a room full of people only for it to be met by silence or a few awkward laughs? It’s a horrible feeling. It’s also the last thing you want to replicate during your public speaking event.
According to Centers for Health and Healing, “Anxiety is a normal part of living. Everyone experiences it at some point. At times like these, it is completely normal to feel anxious, and the anxiety can actually be beneficial, raising our alertness, and improving our performance levels.”
Public speaking can come with a lot of pressure. However, in these moments, it’s important to remember that your audience won’t mind if you pause to collect yourself. When this happens, avoid filling the silence with apologies as this can make the situation feel worse than it really is. Just take a few deep breaths and try again.
- Make Eye Contact with Your Audience
You might assume this advice would only make your feelings of anxiety worse, however making eye contact with your audience can actually do the opposite. While it might feel uncomfortable at first, making direct eye contact can make you feel like you’re having a conversation rather than giving a presentation, taking the pressure off.
What’s more, making eye contact with your audience is a great way to keep everyone engaged and draw people in. We suggest you aim to make direct eye contact with one person at a time, sharing a thought per person. In doing so, you will make your audience feel as though you are talking just to them and your speech will feel far more engaging and intimate than it otherwise would have.
- Say, “I am Excited”
When people feel anxious, often their immediate reaction is to try to calm down. However, according to Harvard Professor Alison Wood, this merely increases levels of anxiety. Instead, Alison Wood suggests that it’s best to say, “I’m excited” as this yields far more positive and productive results.
This is because, physiologically, we have two different systems: go and stop. They are pretty self-explanatory, but the go system is what gets you all revved up and energised, while the stop system slows you down and makes you more cautious. In situations where anxious people are having to speak publicly, it is easier and more effective to transfer feelings of anxiety into feelings of excitement.
But how do you achieve this? The best way is to fight the excuses and focus on reasons to go for it. For example, you might feel passionate about your message, you enjoy a challenge, or you feel excited to initiate change. Whatever reasons drive you and get you excited, use these to help refocus your anxiety and get the most out of your speech.
If you have a public speaking event coming up that you’ve been losing sleep over, we hope this article has been an encouragement to you. We hope the strategies we’ve outlined in this article help you take control of your speaking anxiety so you can deliver a great speech at your next public event.