Public speaking, or stage fright, is a common fear. Research suggests that over 75 percent of people—even experienced public speakers—experience some degree of nervousness when speaking in front of others.
While some people might feel slight apprehension at the thought of public speaking, others experience panic and fear. If you’re prone to public speaking anxiety, you might try to avoid public speaking situations or experience intense anxiety symptoms during public presentations.
Fortunately, it’s possible to overcome a fear of public speaking with preparation and persistence. Here are some simple steps to becoming a better public speaker.
Prepare for your speech.
Most people aren’t going to master the art of public speaking overnight, but preparation can go a long way. If possible, visit the venue where you’ll be giving your speech, and practice your speech beforehand. Carve some time out of your schedule to learn about the topic beforehand. If you accidentally stray off track, you can recover quickly.
Practice makes perfect, so give yourself enough time to practice your public speech until you memorize the main points. Try practicing your speech with friends, family members, and other listeners. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and listen to everyone’s comments carefully. Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable practicing in front of friends and family members, try practicing aloud in front of a mirror or recording yourself.
Refocus your attention.
When it’s time to speak, you might experience an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, or a shaky voice—and that’s completely normal. Before you start speaking, take a deep breath and refocus your attention. Remind yourself that you’re here to help your audience, and the presentation isn’t all about you. Instead, it’s about presenting your ideas.
To give a good speech, pay attention to the material at hand instead of your live audience. Your audience will be more focused on learning the information and the speaker’s ideas than judging your speech. If you’re prone to nervousness, visual aids, such as a PowerPoint presentation, can help distract the audience from your discomfort.
Embrace pauses and silences.
Instead of rushing through your speech, embrace the sounds of silence. If you momentarily lose track of your speech, you might feel nervous or worry that your audience is judging you. In reality, most pauses will only be a few seconds, so simply take a deep breath, recollect your thoughts, and proceed.
Even if the moment of silence is longer than a few seconds, that’s OK. Pauses can emphasize what you’ve just said, helping you deliver a better speech. Your audience members will probably assume that the pause was planned and won’t mind a moment of silence.
Focus on the beginning and end.
Influential public speakers deliver a strong beginning and end. Your opening sets the tone for your speech, and your closing is what your audience will remember. To pique your audience’s interest, focus on storytelling. Try starting with an enticing opening, such as an attention-grabbing statement or statistic. Meanwhile, the ending should bring your speech full circle, capturing your audience’s attention again.
Instead of leaving your opening and ending to chance, write them down and practice. You don’t have to memorize every word of your speech, but it can be helpful to memorize sentence outlines or bullet points to include.
Reach out for help if you need it.
Everyone experiences anxiety occasionally, and public speaking is a common form of anxiety. Whether you need to master the art of public speaking for your career or academic life, therapy can help you overcome your anxiety and become a persuasive public speaker.
Therapy offers a unique opportunity to explore your fear of public speaking in a safe, non-judgmental space. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you develop confidence, overcome public speaking anxiety, and learn healthy strategies to cope with anxiety symptoms.
To find a therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through Beyond Therapy. We’ll connect you to an experienced, supportive therapist based on your personal preferences and requirements. One of the licensed therapists on the Beyond Therapy platform will help you overcome your anxiety so you can take a different approach to public speaking.