4 Useful Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
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Did you know that the name for a fear of public speaking is “glossophobia”? Yes – it’s a very real thing, and if you experience it, you are among an estimated 75% of (all) people who share this anxiety.
Whether you need to give a presentation in front of a board room, or speak in front of a class, or just stand up and do a toast for a special occasion, there’s a 75% chance that your palms are getting a little sweaty right now just thinking about it.
I have spoken in front of groups ranging from 5 people in a small meeting, to 30,000 people in a North Carolina stadium. I’ve appeared on a variety of talk shows across the country, given seminars, spoken at countless live events, and have been a professional on-camera presenter. I have taken what I’ve learned over the years and broken it down into 4 simple tips that can help you take a deep breath and wow the crowd. I call it the PAAT method. (A full summary is included below the video).
The P in PAAT stands for Projection. Projecting your voice when you communicate is a way to display confidence and authority about what you’re saying. Consider listening to a seminar, speech, or lecture from someone who is whispering into the microphone and picture what that experience might be like.
Not only will the audience quickly tune out, but you will also be given the impression that the speaker is unsure about what he or she is saying. Being conscious about how you project your voice is a vital part of getting – and keeping – an audience’s attention.
When you yell or scream, it feels like the tone is coming from the upper part of your throat, near your mouth. But projection will feel like it’s coming from lower in your vocal chords, closer to your chest. Be sure to command the room with adequate volume.
The first A in PAAT is for Authenticity. It is completely natural to get nervous when speaking in front of the group, and one of the primary things that happens is that your pattern on speech will speed up out of nervousness.
As natural as this is, it’s very important to pay close attention to your rate of speech, because increased speed is sending the message that you’re nervous and can’t wait to get off of the stage (which may be the case, but it detracts from your message because people will have a harder time absorbing it).
The other subconscious messages that you’re sending through talking to fast, are that you don’t think what you’re saying is worth listening to, or that what you have to say is not important.
If you don’t think what you’re saying is important, than how much can you really MEAN it?
And, if you don’t really mean what you’re saying, why SHOULD people listen, and believe you?
Being authentic in your speech is important for multiple reasons. You will deliberately speak in order to get your points across, which will naturally slow down your voice. You will pause between phrases in order to let your ideas sink in. You will keep people’s attention for longer because they can FEEL your authenticity and that you MEAN what you are saying.
If people think you are simply reading a script or reciting a memorized series of words, you will lose their attention before you even get it.
The second A in PAAT is for Articulation. Sure, you can project your voice and be authentic in what you’re saying, but if people can’t understand you properly, you’re going to lose them quickly.
When I first started speaking on camera I really sounded like I was from Boston (which I am), but I dropped my R’s in certain places and it made me feel like I sounded uneducated. I worked on learning to ARTICULATE my words through listening to speakers whom I admired and also listening to MYSELF.
Homework: Research powerful speakers whose style you admire and listen to them on a regular basis. Learn how you can implement parts of their style into your own communication methods and meld it all together into YOUR specific presence.
Some of my personal favorites are: Tom Bilyeu, Simon Sinek, Sam Harris, and Tony Robbins.
Pro Tip: The point about authenticity will help you be articulate, because as you slow down your speech, it will be easier to pronounce words with impact and emotion, rather than just mushing them together as you try to get out as many as possible.
The final point, T, is for Topic. Here’s a fun fact: I have never once rehearsed a speech or presentation. Whether it was for a class in college, or a seminar I was giving to a school or business, I have a tendency to get up on stage or in front of the camera and just…start talking.
This is not a superpower or special skill, but because I know exactly what I am going to be talking about during the presentation. I have a strong topic that I am knowledgeable and passionate about.
Think about it – when you are comfortable with WHAT you are saying, it makes HOW you say it much easier. You are exerting less emotional energy on trying to remember details, and can focus more on the way in which you are presenting it to your audience.
It may be true that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” but when people are looking to you for value, lessons, and information – the “what” is the reason they’re in the seats.
Your assignment: Come up with a topic you are passionate about and challenge yourself to do a 2 minute speech about it, on camera. Set up your cell phone and record yourself speaking. Pay attention to your body language – do you sway back and forth, or do you stand strong? Does your voice speed up and slow down, or is it steady? Do your hands move with emotion and emphasis, or are they glued by your side?
You don’t have to show anyone else the video, but it may be helpful to get outside feedback. If you’d rather keep it private, watch the speakers you’ve chosen to observe and learn from, and compare how relaxed you look to their state in their presentations.
Practice, observe, adjust.
Tell me in the comments below, how do you feel about public speaking? Which of these points is the most challenging for you to work on?
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