Did you know there’s a word for the fear of public speaking? It’s called glossophobia, and it is believed to impact around 75% of the population!
But sometimes we can’t avoid public speaking. Whether in work, volunteerism, or while exploring your hobbies, you may need to speak publicly.
Here are my 7 insider tips for overcoming your glossophobia and becoming a confident, powerful public speaker:
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#1: Start with Body Language
You’ve been asked to give the keynote speech or act as event emcee at your alma mater’s graduation. This is a huge honor!
But the moment you walk onstage, they lose confidence in you. Why?
You shift uneasily from one foot to another. Your eyes dart across the audience. You clutch the podium nervously.
Your body conveys self confidence before anyone hears a sound
I know, I know. We’re talking about public speaking, aren’t we?
Yes, but unless you are featured only on podcasts, your physicality matters. That’s right: one of the greatest public speaking skills doesn’t even involve speaking.
As you prepare for your next public speaking gig, focus on the following:
- Connecting the breath and the body: Take deep breaths. Relax your body and mind. This will help you release tension and sense the moment.
- Focusing on posture, not stiffness: A confident public speaker stands up straight. However, this doesn’t mean they are stiff. When you speak, put your shoulders back. Open your chest. Your audience will see a confident speaker immediately.
- Thinking about your hands: It can be hard to know what to do with your hands in front of an audience!
- First, practice settling your arms at your side. Let them swing and move with you.
- Then, find a few comfortable positions for your hands to move into as you talk (read: not into your pockets).
- If you know you will be using a prop (for example, a handheld microphone), simulate that at home.
- Engaging in eye contact with the audience: For some, this is the most challenging thing to do. My advice? Tie eye contact together with your breathing.
Practice taking a deep breath every few sentences. Focus on using the breath to make eye contact with a few members of the audience.
Connecting something scary with something calming helps rewire your thinking. You’ll begin to think of connecting with the audience as peaceful.
#2: Think About When You Feel Most Confident
Here’s a tip to gain confidence public speaking: think about other times when you feel confident.
Where else in life do you feel genuinely confident?
Do you love to write short stories? Are you an avid chess player? A basketball aficionado?
Translate that self confidence to your public speaking.
#3: Invest in Yourself
Depending on your career and hobbies, public speaking may be a frequent requirement.
Maybe you just got a huge promotion at work (woo!). But you’ll now be responsible for acting as corporate emcee while making a quarterly presentation to the board of directors (yikes!).
It may be time to invest in tools that will help you build confidence. Here are a few ideas:
Public speaking courses:
There are many online and in person resources that offer public speaking courses. Do some research and see what is available in your area.
A group course can help you build confidence by putting you in a community-based setting. Remember, most people experience some fear of speaking in public!
Taking vocal lessons can help you learn how to use your voice in the most healthy way. This is incredibly helpful for gaining confidence as a public speaker.
When delivering speeches, you want to make sure you are:
- Breathing regularly and maintaining an appropriate pace
- Enunciating your words
- Projecting so that everyone can hear you clearly
With the support of a teacher, you will gain confidence in public speaking.
Seek out more public speaking opportunities:
Wait, what?! Do more of what I’m afraid of?
I highly recommend finding low-stakes opportunities to practice public speaking. Here are some ideas:
- Attend a local open mic night and read one of your favorite poems
- Invite your friends over for a movie night and deliver a review after the screening
- Head out for a night of karaoke – and make sure to get onstage!
#4: Put Yourself in the Audiences’ Shoes
Confidence breeds confidence. Remember the graduation speaker analogy?
If you demonstrate confidence in public, your audience will feel confident in you. They’ll be much more likely to believe in your message.
I like to think about the experience each audience member is having. Step outside yourself for a moment…
As an audience member, what would you like to see from a speaker?
Would you enjoy watching someone nervously sway behind the podium? Stare at the wall? Run out of breath?
Before you step onstage, think about the audience (and no, not in their underwear – unless that helps you).
Think about what it’s like to sit in their seats. If you were in their seat at that moment, what would you be hoping to see onstage?
Remember what your goal is, what impact you want to have on them. Exuding more confidence will keep the audience focused on your message.
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#5: Find inspiration
Who do you know that exudes confidence in public?
- Maybe it’s a favorite singer of yours. The moment they step onstage, you know you are in excellent hands.
- Or perhaps it’s a friend of yours who served as class president. Whenever they needed to speak at an assembly, it was like they’d been doing it forever!
Looking to confident speakers for inspiration is a great tool. Watch YouTube videos and Instagram posts. Watch them in person. Note their body language, pacing, and breathing.
How can their skills inform your next great speech?
Look to your everyday life
A great way to set yourself at ease is to tell a funny story. If you’re prone to feeling nervous, find inspiration in your everyday life or past.
Break the ice by recalling a silly mistake you made the other day. Or a wildly random statement your child made at the dinner table. Or even a good joke someone surprised you with at the office!
Your professional life can also be a source of inspiration.
Who have you seen make captivating presentations? Who commands attention when they walk into the room? What do they do with their bodies and voices to convey confidence?
Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
#6: Use Your Magician’s Assistants
You do not need to be alone when you step on the stage. Think about the kinds of tools you can use to support you as the event emcee, much like magicians’ assistants.
Break out the visual aids
From PowerPoint presentations to pie charts, silly videos to serious testimonies, consider using visual aids in your next presentation.
Not only can they help guide you through your presentation, they are entertaining. Many people in your audience process information visually.
You’ll help them feel comfortable by offering your message in both auditory and visual mediums.
Bring notes with you
As part of your preparation, write down the key points of your presentation and bring them onstage.
Even if you don’t end up needing them, just knowing they’re available will reduce your stress hormones.
#7: Practice Makes Better
Want to know the most important way to build confidence in public speaking?
Confidence doesn’t come overnight. And no matter how many tips and tricks I give you, it’s the consistency that matters.
Practice each of the skills we’ve talked about regularly. Seek out opportunities to practice. If you do this, you will see a change in your confidence.
Do run throughs before your presentation
The first time you give your speech should not be the only time you give your speech!
Get in the habit of delivering your speech with friends a few times before the real deal. This gives you the chance to make mistakes and listen to feedback.
Record yourself making the speech
I know this might sound awkward, but you will thank yourself for doing it. Set up your phone on a counter or ask a friend to record you.
Then, watch it back a few times. Pretend it’s not you on camera, but just another person. Make notes in as unbiased a way as possible:
- Was this speaker engaging?
- Did they exude confidence from beginning to end?
- Did they seem prepared?
- If they made a mistake, did they move past it with professionalism?
- Would you hire them in the future?
You’re Ready to Make Your Next Speech a Hit!
Let’s review my tips for becoming a confident public speaker:
#1: Start with body language.
#2: Think about when you feel most confident.
#3: Invest in yourself.
#4: Put yourself in the audience’s shoes.
#5: Find inspiration.
#6: Use your magician’s assistants.
#7: Practice makes better.
With that, you are off to the races!
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Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.