Whether you are giving a full blown speech to a group of hundreds, giving an update during a meeting, or having to do a oral presentation in class – if you have a fear of public speaking, this can seem like the end of the world to you. However, even though you have a fear of public speaking, stage fright, or whatever label you want to put on it, you can get through the experience and possibly even enjoy it.
Here are three tips to help you the next time you have to get up and speak.
Outlines and a Full Speech
Most people will tell you that it’s not good to write the speech out and then memorize it. It puts too much pressure on you to have to get over a fear AND remember the speech line for line. I don’t 100% agree with this.
For years I’ve used a method that has NEVER failed me. Let me repeat this: IT HAS NEVER FAILED ME. I know that seems like a pretty bold statement. However, as I was overcoming my public speaking fear, I tried many things.
I will write an outline of the major topic points I want to cover. Depending on how much time I have to speak, I will list 1 – 2 major points per minute that I have to speak. This is a general outline.
Once I have my major points selected, I create 2 – 4 minor points for each major point I want to cover. Again, this is a general outline.
Now I have the major points and minor points that I want to cover. I will now write 1 -3 sentences per minor point. I use full sentences exactly how I would say it during the speech.
Once you have that filled in, you now have your exact speech written, as you would speak it. However, you also have your outline points that you can use as a “guide” to bring up with you.
As you go through and practice (see the next section), you can start with the full written speech. Once you are comfortable with that, start to use only the outline. The reason this is important is that if you get stuck and need to refer to the outline, you will know exactly what you want to say (based on what you wrote for the full sentences and the fact that you practiced with both the full speech and the outline).
Also realize that it’s ok if you miss a sentence or even a minor point. No one knows exactly what you are going to say and it’s ok if you miss it. You’ll be the only one who knows.
This seems pretty obvious. However, this is a step that most people take for granted. They will go through the first tip (writing the speech) and only practice a few times.
Some pros will tell you not to practice or write out your speech. However, these are the same people who make a living from speaking in public. They are not subject to the same level of fear that most of us have.
When I was in high school, I had to give a 15 minute talk. I was still extremely afraid of public speaking but this was for 1/3 of my entire grade. For the 15 minute speech, I practiced over 100 hours. If you break that down, I did the same speech 400 times.
The good news was, even though I was still nervous, I was so confident that I knew the material that it didn’t matter how scared I was. I gave the speech exactly as I wanted (based on my 400 practice runs). I got an A+ for my efforts.
When you practice, speak out loud. Get used to hearing your own voice. Use a mirror to help you see your body language. Record your speech with a web cam or camcorder. Then review the playback and improve the areas you see need attention. You can also use your family as an audience. The more you practice in front of people, the more comfortable you will be once you do get up and speak.
You can also come up with your own ideas and methods for practicing. Just remember, the more you practice, the better prepared you will be.
Relaxation and Meditation
This is a tip that I only learned within the last few years. It’s something that I learned after I started to take yoga. There is also an element of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) in it as well.
Start in a comfortable standing position. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed. Close your eyes. Now, touch your thumb and forefinger together, like you were making the “OK” sign. This is your trigger.
Now, picture the happiest moment of your life. It can be anything: the birth of a child, your most relazing vacation spot, or playing with your favorite pet. Anything that makes you happy and smile. It’s ok if you do smile while you think of this.
You should take long deep breaths while you have this “happy image”. Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds and release. Repeat this breathing exercise for 5 minutes. Make sure you focus on that “happy thought”.
Start this before each practice round. This will be something you do just before you get up to speak. By doing it now as part of your practice, you will “train your brain” to become relaxed and be less stressed.
Once it’s time for you to speak, you can touch your thumb and forefinger together and run through the “happy thought” exercise. During the speech, if you find that you’re getting stressed or nervous, just touch your thumb and forefinger together (no one will notice you doing this). This should help reset your brain back to your “happy thought” and should help to calm you down.
These are just 3 of many tips that you can employ to help you calm your nerves, overcome stage fright, and help control you public speaking fear.