His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down,
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's choking how, everybody's joking now
The clock's run out, time's up, over, bloah!
- Eminem (Lose Yourself)
Sound familiar? No I don’t mean the rap song. I am referring to Fear of Public Speaking(Glossophobia).
Research has shown that an estimated 75% of people experience severe nervousness and anxiety when asked to speak in public. In fact, surveys have revealed people fear public speaking more than they fear death!
If you are able to relate to this, you must have definitely asked yourself ‘What do I do to overcome this fear? Is there no way I can speak confidently in front of people?’
Before I answer that, I have to admit I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with a natural speaking talent. However, through my college and career, I have directly or indirectly helped people by giving tips about how to become better speakers. Some of them worked. Some failed miserably.
The following is a collection of some of my best advice which I learnt from various books, professionals and my own experience. I will explain a few strategies of public speaking, tools to help you implement them and hacks to cheat your way through some of them! Try these and let me know if they help you on your way to becoming a fearless speaker.
Strategy I: Preparation - Plan. Rehearse. Repeat.Source: Photo Monkey (Flickr Creative Commons)
One important thing often overlooked by many is the fact that great speakers aren’t born. No one can turn into a Steve Jobs or a Barack Obama and start speaking like them in one night! Just like all the other fields, Mastery of Public Speaking comes only through hours of diligent practice, dedication and continuous learning.
The first step after choosing your topic of presentation/speech is Planning. During the planning stage it is absolutely essential you identify these 3 key things:
1. Clarity of Content:
The best way to bore your audience is to start speaking things irrelevant to your topic. And it can make all the effort that you put go to waste. Be wise by taking time out to clarify what content is expected and how much you can deviate from it. You don’t want to end up talking about Justin Bieber when your topic is Modern Music and it’s evolution!
2. Who is your audience?
Source: Creative Commons via Flickr
It is extremely important to understand who you will be speaking to.Is it your classmates/colleagues? Is it your teacher or Boss? Based on who you are speaking to, you set the tone of your speech. Once you are able to gauge the wavelength of your audience, it becomes very easy to prepare content.
3. What is the Time Limit?
Individual speeches have an average time between 15-30 minutes. Group Presentations tend to be longer and last about 35-60 minutes. Ensure your content is designed to be delivered in the given time-frame and cut out the unnecessary flab from it.
This might seem like an age-old advice but it works. Cue cards are extremely effective once you have your basic content ready. This tool helps you pace yourself nicely without forgetting key points. (You can usually use them in your actual presentations unless specified explicitly)
One amazing hack which has helped me over the years during preparation is using a Story to start my speech. It can be usually used in 90% of the situations. All you need to do is Google a relevant story and speak about it for 20-30 seconds. It gets your audience interested in what you have to say and puts you at ease by establishing a rapport with them.
Worst case you don’t find a story, make up a funny one and tell your audience at the end that it was fictional. They’ll still love you for it!
Strategy II: Stage Management - Use Both your Body and Mind
Pic by Steve Jurvetson (Flickr Creative Commons)
Most people get by easily past the preparation stage. In fact, most speakers are very well prepared with their content. What freezes them is the stage fear. This happens because in our everyday lives, we are not used to being put in the spotlight in front of so many people!
The way to cope with this stage fear is understanding it. Remember, what cannot kill you can only make you stronger! The first and the simple truth is those butterflies in the stomach are natural! It happens to the best speakers too! The initial nervousness is nothing but your body preparing you by giving you an adrenaline rush! Learn to welcome it and think of it as an Energy Booster pack added to make your speech look awesome!
Always keep your posture erect and your shoulders out. Your posture affects your emotional state and a posture of Power makes you feel in control and increases your confidence!
The second part is once you are on stage. You see so many eyes on you. You feel they’ll start laughing any minute and start throwing things at you! Remember, these demons are a creation of your mind playing tricks on you. Once you can get past this, the rest will be a breeze.
So how do you beat this illusion?
This is a powerful hack which is to be used in extreme circumstances. Suggested by the legendary memory expert Harry Lorraine, it has helped me out many a times.
Once you are on stage and look at the audience, pick out 3 or 4 of the scariest people according to you. Then, imagine them wearing silly green hats and pink shorts! Make them look as ridiculous as your imagination allows and watch your fear disappear on the spot! The mind is unable to hold two images simultaneously and it ends up choosing the weird and funny one always!
Strategy III: Execution- Voice Control
Source: Silicon Priarie (via Creative Commons)
If you have followed the two strategies above with the tools and hacks, the actual delivery should be a piece of cake. Still, just to be sure that you have a world-class speech, I’ll take you through the execution phase.
Learn to Use your voice as well as body language. The secret of some of the best speakers is they talk to their audience than just present content. This makes their voice seem naturally modulated and attractive to the audience. Your control over your voice and your modulation will get better with time and practice. So put some emotion into that voice and get rid of the flat monotone!
To see if your voice is flat or being well modulated, just record yourself on your cellphone and play it back to yourself. This has two advantages. It will help you adjust your voice to be more effective and also keep track of the time. (Also, it’s damn funny to hear yourself speaking so it helps you overcome some of that stress!)
Guys, Know this. No one likes people who pretend to be what they are not. If you are someone who is serious by nature, don’t try to be overtly funny. On the other hand if you are a natural clown loved by all, play to your strengths.
Use this article to determine what kind of speaker you are and adjust your style of presentation.
My last and the most important tip is: If you have a burning desire to be a Public Speaker, start NOW! If you are a student and have a Group assignment, don’t pass on the task of presenting it to someone else. Do it yourself!
Remember, it is usually very late by the time people grow up and realize in their workplace that their inability to speak in public is hampering them in their career. You would be better off starting now than feeling sorry for yourself later.
In fact, you should try and make as many presentations and speeches as possible when you are in school and college. This is because you have the advantage of being surrounded by people who are your friends! They may laugh at your clumsy first attempt but they will also be your best cheerleaders as you improve with time.
Let me know which of these tools and hacks helped you best!
About the Author!
He is a Blogger, aspiring Writer and an occasional Public Speaker. Currently in the business of Human Resource Management. Often branded as Crazy and eccentric, he has always sought to push traditional boundaries and live life to the fullest.
Areas which fascinate him include Philosophy, Human and Organizational Psychology, Literature, Food, Common Sense and Mindfulness.
Rohan Chaubey is the founder of “Be Rohanlicious” – a blog that teaches you to be smart with social media, blogging and programming.
Rohan is on a mission to help all the enthusiastic souls like you, who want to “make it to the next level” and stand out of the crowd.
His e-book “Make People Want You” is releasing soon. Allow him to inject awesomeness in your life by signing up to his list here.