How to Overcome the #1 Fear: Public Speaking

Do your knees tremble and hands shake when you have to make a speech in public? Would you rather do your taxes than speak in front of a group? If so, you’re not alone.

istock_000006029379xsmall.jpgThe #1 fear of most Americans is the fear of public speaking. Maybe they’re not polished speakers in the first place, so they figure they probably won’t sound all that stimulating. Add to that their nervousness, and they expect to be tripping over their words or even forgetting what they practiced for days. Basically, they’re afraid of being humiliated in front of their peers or their superiors. It’s a great confidence and ego destroyer and makes for a very bad day.

Yet, thousands of people have overcome this fear and gone on to speak in front of groups with little or no stress. With some insight, guidance, and a plan of action, you too can rise above your fear of public speaking. If you realize that even the best speakers have their critics, and you just need to do the best you can, you will become more comfortable in front of groups.

One of the primary purposes of most public speaking opportunities is to give something of value to your audience rather than get something (approval, fame, sales, business) from your audience. If you’re talking on a subject close to your heart, just let your passion come through and you’ll be a natural. Keep focused on all the great ideas you want to share with your eager audience. Here are some other tips to get you out of your terror and into the spotlight.

Question your fear: what are you really afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen?

Be yourself: be natural, funny, humble about your fear, create your own style.

Select the best topic: when you have a choice of subjects, speak about something you are passionate about, feel confident about, and are knowledgeable about.

Practice, practice, practice: talk in front of a mirror, on tape, with friends or family, in small groups, to your dog, wherever you can start to build confidence.

Get support: work with a coach to overcome your fear; have someone you know in the audience; practice with a friend who has the same fear.

Model successful speakers: observe the best of the best, then adapt to your own style.

Join a Toastmasters Club: Get more tips on overcoming fear at their website.

Join a group: if you belong to a civic or networking organization, practice giving your 30-second introduction and short educational pieces.

Give up self-judgment and criticism: be kind to yourself, give yourself praise, learn from each presentation, listen to feedback.

Relax: practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, visualization, and affirmations. Take 5 deep breaths before each presentation.

If you’re required to speak publicly for your work or business, don’t let your fear stop you and keep you from potentially profitable opportunities. Look at the fear, feel it, accept it, then get over it. People are waiting to hear what you have to say! Don’t keep them waiting!

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