Throughout history, public speaking has been a common cause of anxiety for all ages, across all levels of society. Even with all the rewards of fame, many performers still claim to suffer panic attacks when faced with public speaking.
1. Plan and Practice: Plan your material well in advance and know your material inside and out. Your message should be a good fit for your audience as well as a good fit for you. Speak about something you truly believe in – or something you have personally experienced – so that you can deliver with confidence and successfully impact your audience.
2. Engage and Envision: Get to know your audience by asking questions that produce responses. Measure any reactions shown to key points that you make during your message. Likewise, let your audience get to know you by offering bits of personal information and snippets of true stories. Be yourself – and don’t forget to put yourself in their place. Envision yourself sitting in those seats. What would YOU want to hear and know? Could you find value in the message? Present your message in a manner that you would find interesting – and in a way that you could truly appreciate.
3. Focus and Feel: Don’t think about yourself. There is no reward in thinking about yourself – it will only increase any anxiety you may be dealing with. Instead, think about what you want to communicate to your audience and what you want them to feel and experience when you speak. This will distract you from whatever may be causing you to feel anxious and, much like searching through a file drawer, you’ll begin processing through the key points of your message, , pulling it out, reviewing it, and preparing it for use. Focus on how you feel about the key points of your message. What emotions does your message stir up in you? Determine to share those emotions by being animated and expressive – which will help your listeners to identify with you, focus on what you’re saying, and relate.
- Are they being pulled into what you are saying – or put off by your message and delivery?
- Are they too noisy?
- Too quiet?
- Shifting in their seats or falling asleep?
Understand that an occasional yawn doesn’t necessarily mean boredom if you’re presenting late in the day. On the other hand, prolonged blank stares at any point in time should be very telling!
Being aware of you own body language is just as important. Your body language will either invite your audience to engage with you, giving them every reason to stay awake – or every reason to exit the room before you’re finished. Take control of the stage from the start with a confident entrance. Continue holding the audience’s attention with the use of conscious gestures and movements. And remain in control to the end through is delivering.
5. Relax and Remember: Relax your body as you speak. Holding the breath causes even more stress. And holding your breath can be something you’re doing without even realizing it…but it sends signals to your body with chemicals that actually create fear. So, breathe deep and often.
And remember, the audience wants you to succeed. They are there to hear what you have to say. They actually want you to be stimulating, informative and interesting. They really want to enjoy themselves and even be entertained – especially if they’ve paid for their seat!
One final tip that has helped many ordinary people, just like you, to overcome anxiety and enjoy the rewards of public speaking:
No matter your level of experience – no matter your age – when you are in front of an audience or group of any size, you are there for a purpose.