Overcome your fear of speaking in front of others

I was born shy.  Speaking in front of the class in high school or college was torture.  Can you relate? My shoulders would be up around my ears, my body would be like a stiff board and I would walk to the front of the class believing that I had just lost my ability to speak.   I swallowed my words, kept my eyes glued on to the paper in front of me and raced through the presentation.  No matter how insightful, creative or edifying the work had been, my presentation of it lost me points.  Big time.  And I couldn’t figure this out – because even though I was shy, I loved dancing and singing.  My mom had enrolled me in ballet (way back when I was 6 or 7) and I gravitated to dancing and music the way the proverbial duck gravitates to water.  So why couldn’t I enjoy speaking in front of a crowd?  Especially when I had things to say that mattered! 

Fast forward to today – having been a teacher for several years (translate – being in front of students and expecting them to listen) and participating in Toastmaster’s Club International for several years, I finally discovered 5 EASY and important tips for anyone to use to overcome the fear of speaking in front of others.  Are you ready?

Tip #1:  Breathe slowly and don’t speak until you are ready to!

When you’re standing in the front of your listeners or audience, breathe slowly and take a pause.  That pause helps you to “own” the space – to claim it as yours while you speak.  This pause is an important part of your presentation – even before you have said a word, you are showing a sense of confidence to your audience.  So breathe slowly and take a pause. 

Tip #2:  Look at several people seated close to you and smile!

Make eye contact with your audience.  This is important as it helps them to remain engaged with what you’re saying.  It shows them that you want them to enjoy their time listening to you. 

Tip #3:  If or when you make a mistake, remember that your listeners are on your side!

They want you to succeed!  Remember that the fear of public speaking is one of the top 10 fears – depending on the lists that you might read, this fear often tops the fear of death!   At least one person in your audience is grateful that it’s YOU up there instead of him or her.  So claim your voice!  Remember that they are on your side!  And if you make a mistake, such as forget a word or repeat yourself or go blank and can’t remember at all what the point of your speech is…PAUSE and TAKE A BREATH and acknowledge.  And KEEP ON SPEAKING!

Tip #4 : Open your speech with a “hook”.

Think of great speeches that you’ve heard and remembered.  At some point, the speaker made you think about yourself and how you related to the topic.  And that is what you can do with your speech.  As an introduction, ask them a question…”have you ever”…”how many of you”…”do you remember when”…. 

And if a question doesn’t appeal to you to get them involved, tell them a humorous or poignant story about yourself that relates to the topic.  They want to see that you are human and they want to feel involved with the topic.  Get them hooked!

Tip #5:  Keep it to 3 points.

When you are standing up in front of them, YOU are the expert of the topic – at least for the moment.  So tell them succinctly the 3 main points of the topic.  No matter what the topic – from fishing to cleaning up the environment, from selling a house to moving abroad, the topic needs to hit 3 main points.  And your 3 main points have been outlined into an INTRODUCTION of what you’ll tell them, then your 1ST POINT, 2ND POINT, 3RD POINT and WRAP-UP!


And you have successfully finished your speech!  At this point, do what you did right before you began:  take a deep breath and PAUSE and look around you (even if your knees might be shaking with relief that it’s over)!  Now…wasn’t that easy? 

Tip #6:  Mentally review what you did well!  And your next speech will be even easier!