Updated: Aug 4
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti” – Eminem.
Public speaking is a common fear many individuals struggle to overcome, even megastars like Marshall Mathers. The thought of standing before a crowd and delivering a presentation can be intimidating, causing anxiety and nervousness. However, with a few basic techniques and guidance, anyone can conquer their fear of public speaking or, even better, use it to their advantage.
In 4th grade, I delivered a book report presentation that might be the root of my anxiety about public speaking. I was nervous for many reasons, but none more powerful than the desire to impress a girl in class with my impressive public speaking prowess. This was my only chance to demonstrate humor, intelligence, and charisma to the world.
This was my opportunity to be known as the greatest public speaker in the history of Sky Crest Elementary!
Since some time has passed, I am not ashamed to share that none of that happened. In fact, the experience lives rent-free in my head to this day.
One of the most effective techniques for overcoming the fear of public speaking is preparation. In hindsight, perhaps a roadblock to my book report presentation’s success was that I didn’t technically read the book. I glanced at the back and thoughtfully reviewed the table of contents, but that was about it. In fairness, I was a 4th grader on the move. I was busy.
I can’t emphasize the importance of thorough research and rehearsal. You can speak with authority and clarity by familiarizing yourself with the topic and relating the information to the emotional experiences you have gone through. Practice your speech multiple times to become comfortable with the content and flow. This preparation will help alleviate anxiety and allow you to focus on delivering your message.
This includes rehearsing in the mirror, in your car on the way to work, and even on video. It might feel weird giving a speech to yourself, but it will pay off when there is a crowd. Another practical technique offered is visualization. Visualize yourself delivering a flawless presentation, engaging the audience, and receiving positive feedback. Imagine some of the questions you might be asked and the response you could get from your answer. Visualize moments that might evoke reactions from the crowd and how you would respond to varying emotional feedback.
Visualization can help reduce anxiety and boost confidence by creating a positive mindset. By envisioning success, you will be better equipped to handle any challenges during your speech.
Another factor contributing to my failed book report presentation was Billy sitting in the front row. For some reason, he kept making hand gestures and funny faces while I was speaking.
I was so distracted that I started talking about a different book entirely. I now always visualize what I might do if grown-up Billy or someone like him returns for the next Speak4MC keynote. (And FYI, there is always a Billy) Moreover, it is important to appreciate the importance of body language and vocal skills. Nonverbal cues can greatly impact the effectiveness of your presentation. In psychology, there is something called the “Spotlight Effect,” which essentially says we are terrible at noticing nuance and accurately guessing what someone is thinking.
In other words, you might notice your voice is slightly higher, but it is unlikely anyone else will. Your audience will only put your flaws in the spotlight if you do. Practicing good posture, maintaining eye contact, and using gestures appropriately can help convey confidence and engage the audience. Additionally, vocal techniques such as varying pitch, tone, and speed can make a speech more engaging and captivating. Lastly, to overcome the fear of public speaking, it is crucial to seek practice opportunities. By gradually exposing yourself to public speaking situations, you can incrementally build your confidence and strengthen your skills.
If 4th grade me decided to avoid future presentations because of this negative experience, I am certain Speak4MC wouldn’t exist. There is a version of you that is a phenomenal speaker, but you will only become that person with practice. In conclusion, practical techniques and guidance can overcome the fear of public speaking. With adequate preparation, visualization, emphasis on body language and vocal skills, and plenty of practice, anyone can conquer their fear and excel in public speaking.
Stay connected through social media or Curtis@Speak4MC.com to share your journey toward becoming a confident and successful public speaker.
*Statements on this blog reflect the author's personal opinions and do not represent any other person, company, or organization. The purpose of this blog is general knowledge and to bring awareness to tools, techniques, people, and organizations that bring about positive change. The reader is strongly encouraged to perform independent research about the topics discussed.