Every year, the survey engines around America release the ten biggest fears list, and at the top of the list, every single year, is Fear Of Public Speaking. Death is number two or three most of the time. Thats right; people would rather die, maybe even in a car crash or at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition, than speak publicly. Public speaking fear for most people is overwhelming.
Is that perhaps the answer to why so many people would rather text, alone and in the privacy of their own thoughts, than share those thoughts in a phone call or, even worse, a conversation? I teach in a public school, and have seen teenage boys and girls, together in a relationship, sitting in the hall right next to each other, texting each other instead of talking. It must be really special for them.
Be that as it may, there is a solution to this inherent fear. And there are several steps to overcoming fear of public speaking. These steps are not easy, they are not pleasant and they are not fast, but the fear can be overcome.
Start. Thats right, get up in front of that class or group and start talking. You were expecting some preliminaries? Sorry, there are no preliminaries, no preparations and no steps to getting up there. Theres just getting up and doing. If you think about it, most difficult things are achieved this way. Just to give one example, swimmers learn to swim by jumping in the pool, not by sitting safely to the side in a swimming preparation seminar. And by the same token, a seminar in overcoming public speaking fear is a waste of time also. The best way to begin to overcome is to do it. Thousands of people are overcoming this fear every day by doing exactly thatand they are no better, brighter or smarter than you.
accept approximation. You do not have to be witty, scintillating, joke-filled, affable or polished to speak. Its okay to make mistakes, forget yourself, stumble. Heres a secret most speakers don't realize the audience is right with you. Do you remember the times when a scared kid stood in front of you and stumbled through a speech? Chances are, you weren't smirking, snickering or laughing out loud at him, as he feared. You were agonizing with him, thinking cmon, pal, you can do this. Most of the time, the audience is on your side.
realize that your anxiety scales down for people. Dick Cavett, in a Playboy interview, said this about public speaking: If youre a little nervous, you dont look nervous. If youre very nervous, you look a little nervous. If youre totally out of control, you look troubled. So, as badly as you feel up there, the fear looks much less obvious to the audience.
Brevity is the soul of wit. Thats Shakespeare, and he was completely right. You need not make long or windy or facts-laden speeches. Take three main points (two is not enough and four is too many) and make them, one, two, three. Your introduction should tell the points youre going to make, the speech body is the points, the conclusions is the points you made. Here's a quote from businesstown.com: tell your audience what youre going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.
Finally, have a point to make. Have a purpose or reason for speaking. Thats all there is to it. Then sit down. One more quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt: Be sincere, be brief, be seated. Now, start to overcome the fear of public speaking and start now!