Public speaking can create a lot of fear and anxiety for many people. As Jerry Seinfeld once remarked about delivering a eulogy, “Most people would rather be in the casket than be delivering the speech.”
People who suffer from anxiety related to public speaking report a wide range of symptoms when they think about having to express their ideas in public. These symptoms include: insomnia, increased pulse rate, shortness of breath, blushing, sweating and nausea.
In some instances, peoples’ careers are negatively impacted by this pervasive and common fear. A number of years ago, I treated several trial lawyers who used to become physically ill before they had to deliver their opening statements. These highly competent attorneys were afraid that they would make fools of themselves in front of the judge, jurors and their adversaries.
When I was younger, I used to dislike public speaking. I overcame my fear by utilizing self-hypnosis and by forcing myself to practice speaking as much as possible.The continual practice and the hypnosis must have worked because I went on to become a university professor. I also took third place in a stand-up comedy contest. And I have appeared on national television and many radio programs and I do this with a great deal of confidence and comfort now. I actually enjoy it very much.
If you or someone you love suffer from anxiety related to public speaking there are a number of things you can do to alleviate this fear:
1. Choose a topic or an approach to your topic that you love and feel enthusiastic about. This will energize your presentation and help to minimize your anxiety.
2. While you may think the audience is your enemy and eager to see you fail and make a fool of yourself, most people want you to succeed and want to enjoy your presentation.
3. Start off with some humor as this will help you to relax and help you and your audience get comfortable with one another.
4. Look upon speaking as an opportunity to do something possible for others. Your ideas can really make a difference for your audience. Many of us don’t get this chance that often in our lives. Enjoy this forum.
5. Don’t over prepare or under prepare. Like a good athlete, you need to discover the right training regime. After giving a few talks, you will know when you are really ready to give a super talk.
6. While you may think you will pass out or vomit, fortunately, these things rarely happen.
7. Seeing yourself on video is something that makes many of us anxious. However, it is a great way to learn how to improve your presentation style.
8. If you need to give a long speech, include a lot of audience interaction. This will increase the likelihood of people liking you, learning more, remembering more about your content and thoroughly enjoying your talk.
9. Practice making good eye contact whenever you talk to anyone. Then use this good eye contact with the people in your audience. This is one of the physical keys for effective public speaking.
10. Include some real life stories in your talk. This is a proven formula for delivering a good talk.
11. A little anxiety prior to speaking is normal and fine. In fact, may actors report feeling this way prior to performing. You need to learn to use this anxiety as energy to fuel your speech.
12. Watch videos of great speakers and imitate what they use effectively. Pick techniques which suit you and your personality.
13. Learn self-hypnosis as these techniques will teach you to quiet your mind and calm your body during your talk.
14. Imagine yourself being delivering a successful speech and getting a nice round of applause from the audience.
15. Use the same kinds of performance enhancement techniques that athletes and actors to perform to their fullest potential.
16. If you are really stuck, contact a performance coach or therapist who can help you to be less anxious and more confident.