Presentation Jitters? How to Overcome the Fear of Speaking

Speaking in public is truly scary for many people. I get it. What I don’t get, though, is how truly terrifying (even paralyzing) it can be for millions of people around the world. Take a minute and look up the word “glossophobia”–severe fear of public speaking.

How Does Fear Show Up?

Those who suffer from this say that when speaking (or even at the thought of speaking in front of a group) they experience:

• Their mouth dries up

• Their voice begins shaking uncontrollably

• Their body begins trembling

• They begin sweating, shaking and feeling their heart racing

We’ve all heard that public speaking is the number one fear of people everywhere (above the fear of dying). Seinfeld even commented on this in one of his episodes where he said something like, “If that’s true then most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy!”

Why is presenting to a group utterly terrifying for some? In seminars, university classes and individual coaching sessions I ask people to explain exactly what scares them the most about public speaking.

Why Be Afraid?

Here are just some of the most common confessions:

• I’ll sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about

• I’ll look stupid

• I won’t be able to answer questions

• I’ll freeze up and forget what I’m supposed to say

• I’ll be boring

For a great little (fictional) view of what this looks like, take a look at Don Knotts in the classic movie: Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

Easy-To-Use Tips and Techniques

While there’s no magic cure for this very real fear, some simple steps can greatly diminish the trauma. Here are just a few tips to begin minimizing the fear and begin a journey where a person (or you) might even learn to enjoy public speaking:

1. Visualize success. Great athletes use this technique to imagine a perfect performance. Try this when preparing for your next presentation. Imagine a flawless presentation, “see” the audience completely engaged in your message… they’re smiling, nodding and enjoying your message!

2. Quiet your mind. Stop the chatter–especially the negative self-talk. Take deep breaths. Try simple meditation techniques to help you focus on your message.

3. Know your audience. Be sure to know as much as you can about who they are, what they already know about your topic and why they’ll be attending.

4. Be the expert! Nothing can boost your confidence like knowing your stuff! Do your homework. Research your topic and be fully prepared.

5. Practice, practice, practice. After you finish practicing, practice some more! Practice out loud, standing (if that’s your setting) and go through your presentation in its entirety.

6. Watch yourself on video. It’s easy to hit the record button on you smart phone or tablet. Be sure to take advantage of this easy technology so you’ll see yourself–what you like, what you don’t like and what you can work on… immediately.

7. Work with a coach, take a class, study presentation skills. If you want to boost your confidence with a skill that will be required throughout your career, consider finding a resource to help you get better fast.

Most of all, enjoy the journey. I promise you with effort, courage and hard work you will be amazed at how you can improve.