Public Speaking – Why It’s Really Not That Scary

It’s widely known that public speaking is a top fear for a lot of you. But what can we do about it?

Being able to speak clearly and calmly (or at least appear calm) can be a huge benefit in work and personal life. It helps us show our skills, share information and ideas and be part of the group. That group can be any from your office weekly meetings to your group of friends planning a party.

I love public speaking. Really, I do. When I share this with friends the general response is “ugh, not me, no way”. For me it’s fun, let me tell you why.

1 – I get to prepare the information to share. If it’s educational or work informative I’m often the one working a PowerPoint presentation a few days ahead to prepare. The geek in me enjoys playing with it, maybe too much.

2 – I can show what I know and my ideas are heard. In a social group being able to contribute to group plans means you can do things that interest you and not just follow everyone else. And maybe get to go to my favorite new restaurant that no one else has been to yet.

3 – Pride. Truly as much as I like speaking I still get nervous and I know my voice is shaking just enough for me to notice. Whenever I am finished, no matter what the situation, I feel good about not letting my own nerves hold me back.

Does that sound good to you? To be prepared? To be heard? To feel good about yourself? Yeah? Let’s look at quick ways to get past the fear and start speaking up.

First, prepare. That sounds simple but really, prepare what you’re planning to talk about, especially if it’s in front of co-workers or any size crowd. You can choose a slide show, a hand out or simply speaking from cards or memory if that works for the situation. But know your stuff. If you have to research for a week in order to speak for 15 minutes then do it. You will feel calmer knowing that you can answer any questions that come your way.

Be OK not knowing. Sure that’s opposite to what I said above and it’s also very true. No matter how prepared you are someone may ask a question you can’t answer. Simply say something like “That’s a great question. I don’t have the answer to that right now but let me get back to you”. That kind of honesty makes you more trustworthy overall. Be sure to follow through and get the best contact information from the questioner.

Practice. I mean practice in 3 ways:

  • Start small, speak out more in places and with people you’re already comfortable with. Then move on to meetings and bigger and bigger groups.
  • For any planned speaking engagements practice your speech in front of the mirror, or a loved one, as many times as you can. It goes with knowing your stuff.
  • Use calming breathing and mindfulness techniques. These help you calm down physiologically and let you speak more clearly.

Get excited. I learned this tip from Mel Robbins in her book The 5 Second Rule. In the book she talks about how fear and excitement crate very similar reactions in our bodies. By talking to yourself as if you’re excited rather than fearful you trick yourself into moving away from being afraid into being ready. Of course she explains it much better in her book if you want to pick it up for yourself.

Using small tricks works. It can get you to change how you feel about speaking in public. Then you can be the one sharing your tricks and tips to help someone else conquer the fear. Go for it, find a starting point for speaking out today.

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