6 Ways to Gloss Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

Public speaking IS totally terrifying.

Public speaking can be terrifying.

If you suffer from Glossophobia, there’s a chance you’d rather die than speak in public. The good news is, there are lots of ways to get around this common fear. There’s no need to listen to that nasty voice in your head screaming They’re all going to laugh at you! because no one actually wants to laugh at you. And overall, being a solid speaker and delivering a quality presentation is completely within your hands. One day, Grasshopper, you will be a top contender in the World Championships of Public Speaking! (Yes. That’s a thing. Some people actually love public speaking – and the key to their success is practice!)

These 6 steps will put you on the path to success.

1) Do some reconnaissance. Get a look at the space before your presentation. This may not always be possible, but if you’re given the chance, jump on it. If you’re not offered the chance, ask. Minimizing the number of unknowns prior to your presentation will help make you feel more in control, which should in turn help to silence your inner critic.

2) Run a dress rehearsal with identical audio/video equipment so that you’re comfortable with the technology. Nothing tests the strength of your deodorant like trying to figure out where cord A attached to input B while the crowd looks on, or glancing awkwardly between your audience and your laptop while you try to figure out whaaaaaat is happening with your slide presentation (I swear it was formatted for a Mac… what happened??!)

3) Wean yourself off your notes – they’re more of a distraction than a crutch. Practice your speech backwards and forwards, in the shower and while you drive, in front of a trusted friend or the bathroom mirror. If you know your material cold, then you’ll be less likely to freeze when the pressure is on. Having your entire speech typed out in front of you can be disastrous for many reasons — you’ll have a hard time finding your place if you’re not following along on the page, and no one wants to watch you read. They want to hear you speak. Keep some point-form notes close at hand – but don’t put yourself in the position to need them.

4) Create presentation materials to underline or supplement your point (but don’t make them be the point!) We’ve all seen those power point presentations where practically every word the presenter said was projected behind her on the screen, usually in bullet-point form – LAME! If everything you’re saying can be read on the screen behind you, then you’ll be competing with yourself for your audience’s attention; they’ll be trying to read what’s behind you instead of listening closely to what you’re saying. A 5-star presentation will include visuals – photos, pie charts, and infographics to explain complicated (or otherwise dull) statistics. And take a lesson from the Internet: no one ever went wrong with a cat photo.

An example of personal style... but not one we're recommending.

An example of personal style… but not one we’re recommending.

5) Keep up to date on presentation trends and materials. Remember overhead projectors? …Yeah. Would you create a presentation using overhead transparencies now? (God I hope not!) Your audience will be in a better position to receive your message if you take the time to figure out the best method to share it with them. Prezi is one of my current favourites, though there are other tools that compete (thanks to Que-Commerce.com’s Justin Croxton for this list!). Find one that speaks to your personal style!

6) Don’t think about everyone being naked.             (I don’t know about you, but standing in a room full of naked strangers would cause me anxiety, not alleviate it!) Instead, remember that everyone in the room wants you to succeed; it’s stressful for an audience to watch the presenter tank. They want to see you succeed at delivering an informative, engaging presentation – so the pressure is on but the heat’s not as high as you think. Giving your audience the impression that you want to be there will go a long way to building a successful relationship with your audience.

I've totally got this!

I’ve totally got this!

Last and most important point: Being a little nervous isn’t a bad thing, remember? A worse thing: Being completely underwhelmed and coming off like you have no passion or energy for your topic. Harness your nervous energy and use it to be the dynamic, confident, and compelling speaker you were in the shower or in front of the mirror. You’ve been asked to speak because you have something important to say. Now, get out of your own way and share that message!


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