Okay, everyone who has a fear of public speaking: raise your hand. That’s what I thought. Well, you can take comfort in the fact that you are a member of one of the world’s largest clubs, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tear up your membership card.

Short Version
  • Pinpoint your fear so you can overcome it
  • Write out your speech
  • Practice it and video record yourself
  • Use slightly exaggerated expressions and movements
  • Stay on point, but don’t be afraid to improvise
  • Speak a little slower than normally
The ability to stand in front of an audience and speak confidently is highly underrated. It is, in fact, a hallmark of a well-rounded man and a necessary characteristic of a leader. It’s also an ability which can be mastered by anyone willing to do so, even the shy or introverted. If you want to command attention when you speak to a group, read on…

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Fear

How to Be a Better Public SpeakerBefore anything else, you have to address the psychological aspect: your fear. Fear of public speaking isn’t a rational thing, so recognize that and acknowledge it. The idea people usually get about “facing your fears” is standing toe to toe with a grizzly, or standing on the edge of a tall building to overcome a fear of heights. Facing your fears means acknowledging them and giving them a name.

Why are you afraid of speaking? Name it. Think about it and write it down. Being afraid of some nebulous thing that you can’t describe is ridiculous, so stop it. Analyze your fear and determine exactly what it is. Once you can name it, you can overcome it. Whether you are afraid of tripping over words, saying the wrong thing, or forgetting what to say, you can prepare for it and practice overcoming it. Practice always makes better. Nobody’s perfect.

 

Write It Out

How to Be a Better Public SpeakerIf you know ahead of time that you have to speak somewhere, make sure you write out everything you will say. That way you can make sure that you stay on point, that your words are what you are meaning to get across, and that you will fill, but not go over, the time allotted for you. Every minute will need about 200 words to fill it.

You get to craft your message to use exactly the right words in exactly the right way. This alone will build your confidence.

One of the most common regrets about speaking is wishing we had said it differently. If only we had thought to use this word or that phrase or to tell that story that would have really explained it so much better. That’s the advantage of writing it down ahead of time. You get to craft your message to use exactly the right words in exactly the right way. This alone will build your confidence.

 

Be Yourself, and Someone Else

You’ll always hear people tell you to ‘be yourself’ and everything will be fine. That’s only half true. You need to be yourself, but only to the extent that you come across as a real person and not a robot – or a car salesman. Public speaking is your opportunity to put your acting skills to work.

You don’t want to assume a completely different persona of course. That’s not being yourself. What you want to do is create an attitude of confidence and boldness, and then play that part. If it seems unnatural then consider it an act and play it out. Make sure your voice rises and falls instead of speaking in a monotone. Make gestures. Exaggerate your facial expressions slightly. Move around a bit. Imagine someone famous speaking in front of a crowd and try to emulate them. Just don’t go off the deep end.

 

Prepare Physically

How to Be a Better Public SpeakerSpeaking of exaggerating your facial expressions, make sure that you know you don’t look goofy first. You should practice your speech ahead of time of course (you knew that part, right?), but you should record yourself speaking on video. That way you can play it back and see where you need to improve. You might think you are smiling, but the video may see things differently.

Give your voice inflection, move around, and speak with passion and interest.

Movement captures attention, it’s human nature. Sweeping your arm, stepping around, and making hand movements holds interest vastly more than someone standing frozen in place. Depending on how far you are from your audience, your normal gestures may not even be noticed. Take just a small part of your speech to start, say one or two minutes, and make it interesting. Give your voice inflection, move around, and speak with passion and interest. Then add a few more minutes, and so on, until you can ‘perform’ the entire speech.

 

Focus, but Don’t Concentrate

Even if you have memorized a ten minute speech, you’ll likely go off-script at some point. It may be accidental or you may suddenly think of a point which should be included, but it will happen. Your extensive preparation and practice will have you covered. All you need to do is get from point A, to point B, to point C and to the end while keeping their interest. If you stray in between these points, it just adds all the more human element to it. Just don’t stray far or long. Remember, you probably have a time limit. The better you know your material on the front end, the more at ease you’ll be with ad-libbing when you want to.

How to Be a Better Public SpeakerFocus on the big points so that you stay on track, but don’t concentrate so much on the exact words that you sound like a robot. Be on a mission to deliver a great speech, but let your mind be free enough to be comfortable. If you trip over some words, just quickly apologize in a light-hearted way or make a quick joke and get right back into it.

Stop being afraid of speaking in front of people and improve yourself. You’ll feel a whole lot more confident, and others will notice too.

 

 

Public Speaking Checklist
  • Improving your public speaking improves your confidence
  • Don’t ever ‘wing it’ unless you have to on the spot
  • Good preparation makes for a good speech
  • Allow for ad-libbing and storytelling if possible
  • Speak up!

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About The Author

Wally Peterson

Wally Peterson is a writer and aspiring beach bum living sixty seconds from the sand in the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. He has a face made for blogging and his idea of fashion is wearing socks.

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