5 Easy Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

One of the most common fears people have is public speaking. Being under the scrutiny of everyone sure is terrifying. You imagine them nitpicking on each of your stammers and um, arh, orh. Your worst insecurities repeat like a broken record in your head. We all have experienced such fear and anxiety before.

The reality is we can't avoid public speaking, from presenting in school to sharing ideas in the workplace, all these activities require us to speak to groups of people. The only solution to this problem is to fight it instead of avoiding it.

1. Practice
Practice is the key to overcoming the fear of public speaking. The two reasons why you are stumbling over your words is because you are feeling anxious that you will screw up and you are unfamiliar with your presentation. That's why it is important to be familiar with your content through constant practice. Practice is key to making yourself familiar with the content you present and when you are familiar with the content you will find it easier to communicate the ideas fluently without much anxiety.

But sometimes after practicing you may still feel fearful that you might blanked out and it's alright to feel this way. To prevent that from happening you should ingrain in your mind the opening sentence. The opening sentence will act as a trigger to kickstart your memory of the presentation and in no time you will be speaking properly.

2. Focus on "Sharing"
Another way to quell your anxiety is to shift your focus away from your grades. A large part of our anxiety stems from the fear that we might screw up our grades. Which brings me to the point on "Sharing" your content instead of "Presenting" it.

As all human beings are social creatures, you must focus on your natural inclination to share stories, just like how you socialize with your friends through the sharing of interesting things that happened during the weekends. When you wholly focus on "sharing" the content instead of "presenting" it you will find yourself speaking without any anxiety and hesitation.

3. Deep Breathing
I know this sounds pretty cliche but there's always truth to cliches. Deep Breathing allows you to calm your nerves and focus better. It prevents you from getting anxiety attacks right before the presentation. To perform the exercise find a quiet place that have minimal distractions. You can do it standing up or sitting down. It is important that you feel comfortable. Now concentrate on the sensation of the air going in from your nose and out through your mouth. Allow your entire consciousness to be aware of the breathing sensation, feel your heartbeat slow down progressively. 3 Minute would be good enough, if not, you can do it till you feel you are mentally and physically ready.

4. Mental Preparation
Just like how professional athletes perform mental preparation before a match, you will find the exercise beneficial as well. By visualizing a successful presentation in your mind you familiarize yourself with the steps to a successful presentation. The mere act of thinking about a successful presentation and how each steps are charted out to achieve it will aid you in achieving a successful presentation in reality. Just like how basketballers who visualized scoring a free throw increased their chances of scoring compared to those who practiced without mental preparation.

Begin by imagining what will happen during the presentation. Instead of screwing up, think of how you will ace the presentation. Picture in your mind every single detail from the moment you walk in to how you will speak and where you stand and how you will end with rounds of applause.

5. Avoid Eyes and Uninterested People
Many of you may find it hard to look at people's eyes directly for a long time without feeling awkward or anxious. Sometimes you may spot your friends dozing off, or they may look uninterested which creates a lot anxiety and doubt as well.

Firstly, instead of looking at their face focus on their temples, eyebrows or their nose. Secondly avoid those that are causing you anxiety by focusing on a couple of attentive friends that you are comfortable with and focus on them instead. If you are presenting to people you do not know, you can try focusing on people that are pleasant looking and are listening to you or nodding to you.

Summary
  1. Practice - Practice constantly and be familiar with your content
  2. Sharing - Share the content with your friends/audience
  3. Deep Breathing - Breathing deeply for 5 minutes
  4. Mental Preparation - Imagine a successful presentation and strike a confident pose
  5. Avoid Eyes and Uninterested People - Temples, eyebrows or nose is where your eyes go. Focus on attentive people not uninterested people.

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