Are you scared of public speaking??

You are not alone! Glossophobia, otherwise known as speech anxiety is quite common!

Here are some great tips to overcome those sweaty palms

In my 25 years as an MC and front man of a band, I have encountered many people with a “fear” of public speaking. Whether it be the CEO of a large company giving a keynote address at a conference, or the father of the bride on his daughters wedding day, it can happen to the best of them!

This blog will offer tips, advice and homework for anyone who is facing a date with that dreaded microphone in the not too distant future.

The fear of public speaking continues to be right at the top of the world’s most common phobias, usually causing as much angst as a fear of heights or a fear of snakes/spiders etc.

Having once been very nervous at public speaking, let me try and help with a few tips and advice I have discovered myself.

1). Know your subject matter!

Before you attempt to write your speech make sure you do the research. In other words, know the subject matter you are speaking about!!. It doesn’t matter if your speech is about your company’s strategic direction, or a wedding toast on how your daughter met her partner, the advice is the same – KNOW YOUR SUBJECT!

If you are tasked to speak on a subject matter you are not overly familiar with, then start researching! Even on familiar topics, ask yourself if there is more you can know and look into that as well. Doing the hard yards, in terms of research and preparation, helps lead to building your own confidence.

Writing a flow chart of what you want to say, helps to make it clear in your own head. If you are using power-point or visual slides etc., make sure you know their order and familiarize yourself with either the hardware device (laptop etc.) or the “clicker” to move to the next slide.

Once you have a plan on what you want to say, and have organised any presentation collateral you’d like to use, try rehearsing your speech in front of a family member. Dogs can also be good listeners, without the judgement!

Even news-readers on TV and radio, read over their prepared scripts many times until they know their content backwards. It’s all about the preparation! 

2.) Get ready for the Physiology of the speech or presentation.

The physiological effects of delivering a speech so often get overlooked at the outset, but it is critical to effective speech delivery.

Prepare yourself for all of those feelings of fear, anxiety and the hyper-arousal of your nervous system. Believe it or not, it’s just plain human and something that even the most experienced public speaker will go through. I still do after 25 years at it!! The more experienced presenters just know how to deal with these feelings. The fear and anxiety of what is to come will “arouse” your nervous system, into a feeling of fight or flight, thus leading to an emotional fear that if left unchecked, can lead to an inability to perform at your best.

My tip is simple. Accept all of these feelings!!! Understand what they are and the role they serve and  ‘own them’.  It’s perfectly normal to feel this way and the quicker you are able to reconcile it the better. Having said that, always ask yourself if the nervousness has a rational basis. Your subconscious in some cases may be alerting that something has been missed. Think clearly through it.

To be honest, if you are on top of your subject matter, and you have practiced , you just need to own what you are doing and saying. At the point of speech delivery, know you can do no more and just go for gold. Shut the fear out……concentrate on the dialogue!

Remember the nervous feelings are okay. They are normal. Confront, accept, move on.


3). Seek ways to get better at speaking in public.

 Sometimes our whole thought process is about delivering just one presentation or speech. But how about thinking of developing these skills right now for the rest of your life! Confronting the fear with lots of public speaking opportunities can quickly build skills and resilience to help develop confidence very quickly. In other words, if you never dive in the deep end you’ll never fully learn to swim.

Something so simple as reading or delivering the speech to a partner or close friend can make all the difference. Do it three times and I bet by the third time of presenting in front of someone you trust, you are three times as good as the first time you did it!

Try joining a Toastmasters group, speak at small family gatherings, speak to small groups of work colleagues. The more you speak, the more you learn and the better equipped you will become.

There is a great deal to be learned from actors in this respect. They rehearse their scenes constantly so think of yourself as a speech actor. I know it will probably sound “corny” to you, but practice in front of a mirror also. This ways you will get to see what your audience are seeing. Ask yourself, are you standing tall and confident? Are you making enough quick eye contact with your audience to visually engage with them? Are you fidgeting? Are you speaking with passion and belief? Your own reflection in that mirror will give you those answers very quickly.

And whatever problem you see in that mirror, fix it the next time you run through the speech. Don’t be so self-conscious that you only do the speech twice in front of a mirror… it ten times when no one is around. Trust me, you’ll “blitz” it the more times you do it.

4). Try to get to know some of your audience beforehand.

If you are about to walk into a room full of strangers, try to get there early and make the effort to mingle or talk with some of your audience before hand. It’s not always possible to do this, but if you meet and chat with some of the audience they won’t all be strangers will they!

If you have managed to develop a rapport with anyone before your presentation you can scan the audience during your speech to make a visual connection with them. A friendly set of eyes can really make a difference if you’re feeling all alone. If you have a friend or work colleague that you get on well with that will be in the audience, seek them out visually a few times during your speech so you can find a friendly, comforting and supportive face. Nothing will calm your nerves better than a smiling audience member!


5). Some helpful hacks!

Okay, so finally here are a list of hacks that can really help beat your nerves, settle your mind and physical jitters as you step up to the microphone. Try some of these before and during your presentation.

  • Breathe deeply!! When anxious, human beings tend to shallow breathe. This is not good for public speaking so remember to breathe properly. Concentrate and take deep, slow breathes in and out for 1 minute. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel after this.
  • Shake and stretch your arms and legs and stretch your neck and jaw. The anxiety you are feeling can result, just before your speech, into a tightening of muscles right throughout your body. Beat that by “limbering” up like an athlete would before a race. Another great trick is to place your tongue on the roof of your mouth a few times. It will actually help with pronunciation issues caused by nervousness!
  • Smile and try to laugh about something before hand! The mere act of smiling can activate some of the “feel good transmitters” in your brain. Use them.
  • Use pauses during your speech. Sometimes because we are anxious and just want it to be all over with, we rush through our delivery. Take some time to pause, let the audience catch their breathe and more importantly, can give you a few seconds to re-group yourself and move on to the next part of your speech. Pausing will help you settle and allow you time to recompose yourself. The more relaxed and comfortable you are, the more relaxed and comfortable your audience is also.
  • Make sure that you try and add a story to your speech or presentation. For centuries, people have been inspired by Bards and Poets (story-tellers). Two really easy ways to engage your audience with story telling is (1) Tell the audience something about you and (2) tell your audience something that may inspire them.

Hopefully this blog will see you conquer your nerves to deliver a successful speech or presentation and help with any future public speaking engagements.