Do you experience stage fright when addressing an audience and you want to conquer it? If YES, here are 20 tips to help you overcome the fear of public speaking.

There is something about the words “public speaking” that scares the confidence out of certain people. Do you get scared when you have to address an audience? Do your palms get sweaty? Do your knees buckle? If your answers to these questions are yes, then there is a high chance that you have glossophobia which is the fear of public speaking.

What is Glossophobia?

The fear of public speaking is a form of social anxiety disorder known as Glossophobia. If you have glossophobia, then don’t worry because you are not alone. A vast majority of individuals have this same fear. According to recent statistics, at least 27 million Americans suffer from the fear of public speaking hence if you are suffering from this condition, you should understand that you are not alone.

Many world leaders today once suffered from glossophobia, and had to be coached on the art of public speaking. People tend to look for other means to bypass public speaking rather than simply address their fears.

What are the Symptoms of Glossophobia?

Glossophobia’s symptoms vary from sweaty palms, shaky legs, dry mouth, and tightness in the throat. Nausea, high anxiety, and panic attacks are experienced in people who have an extreme fear of public speaking. To avoid feeling like this, glosso-phobics will use extreme measures to avoid speaking in public.

Flight or fight reaction is an increase in adrenaline that happens to most individuals when they are backed into a corner. The increase in adrenaline causes these symptoms to appear. This is an instinctive response that has been in humans since the days when our predecessors had to run or fight for animals.

Our apprehensions before a speech or public address hinges on the opinion people might have of us, what will happen if we trip over our words and things of that sort; those fears trigger our natural instinct to run from the situation.

Public speaking is relatively enjoyable when we learn to overcome the anxiety and urge to run from what our mind sees as the danger which is associated with public speaking. Being able to speak to an audience about your business portrays you as someone who is well versed in the business and also brings sales increase and larger business referrals.

Giving an explanatory and non-sales related speech builds trust and carries your audience (and possible target market) along. The audience is more interested in your products and services unlike when a telemarketer calls trying to sell or provide information on products.

If you find yourself getting nervous or scared of speaking in front of other people, you can learn to overcome this fear and develop public speaking confidence using the tips below:

Overcoming the Stage Fear of Public Speaking – 20 Tips to Help You Out

  1. Begin Small

If this is the first time you are faced with speaking from a podium, begin small. Practice with a few of your family and friends. Starting with a small group size builds confidence and it is easier to grow from there. Once you have full knowledge of your topic, audience size wouldn’t faze you. You will see that with time your fear will diminish.

2. Practice

One of the keys to a confident public presentation is proper preparation. If you understand your topic well, you would be less likely to get scared of messing it up. This is one major reason why most people suffer from public speaking anxiety.

Study your materials beforehand, and practice in front of a mirror the night before your presentation. Rehearsing before a mirror helps you see that you don’t suck as much as you think you do, and would help to boost your confidence levels.

3. Take Deep Breaths

A Psychiatrist once said “Fear is excitement without the breath”. Sometimes, taking deep breaths can change everything as it helps to calm your nerves down and trigger the release of hormones that would help you relax. Just before you go on stage for your presentation, inhale and exhale deeply four times. This is known as the 4 x 4 breathing exercise, and it is very effective for relieving anxiety and inducing instant calmness.

4. Look at the Faces of Interested People: Avoid looking at people who look bored, skeptical or uninterested in your presentation. One way to get an instant confidence boost during public speaking is to focus on people who seem very engrossed, interested or impressed in what you are trying to say.

5. Use Strategic Pauses During Conversation

Speech therapists often recommend that people take regular pauses during conversation to reduce the effect of speech difficulties. This technique also helps during public speaking. You should try taking regular pauses after each point, the calming effect that follows can help to reduce your public speaking anxiety.

6. Don’t be Too Quick to Judge Your Audience’s Expression

Try to avoid relying completely on your audience’s facial expressions as a judge of your performance. People listen and process information differently, and that blank stare might just mean that they are concentrating on assimilating the message you are passing across and not a sign that they are unimpressed by your message.

7. Organize Your Materials and Thoughts before the Presentation: You have to have a clear idea of the sequence of your presentation before you get on that podium. To avoid confusion, you can get a small piece of paper and write down the major points and sequence of your presentation on it so that your presentation can flow seamlessly.

8. Avoid Unnecessary Repetitions-: Keep your sentences short and straight to the point. Avoid repeating the same sentences over and over again, always keep your conversations progressive.

9. Dress Well-: Many people fail to realize that appearance is a huge part of public speaking. The way you appear might make people more welcoming and receptive of what you have to say, and can help to significantly boost your self-esteem and confidence levels.

10. Ask Your Friends to Observe You

You might be anxious about speaking in front of total strangers, but you should feel a little bit more confident with making presentations before your friends and family members. You could try to use them for practice- stand in front of them and rehearse your presentation- they should be able to make helpful criticisms and suggestions for improvement. They may also be able to help you see that you don’t suck as much as you think you do.

11. Take Public Speaking Classes: There are a lot of coaching programs that you can enroll for to help improve your public speaking skills. These programs often involve a coach and a speech therapist helping you understand your fears, and suggesting helpful ways to get over your public speaking phobia.

12. Drink Some Warm Water and Lemon

A few minutes before your presentation, you could try drinking some lemon infused in warm water to help clear out, and soothe your throat. It is not uncommon for people to suddenly go on a coughing spree as soon as they begin a public presentation mostly because they are not used to speaking so loudly, or speaking for extended periods of time. A warm drink is one effective way to avoid any stress that your speech may bring on your throat.

13. Lighten Up The Mood: Sometimes, it helps to have some conversation starters that can help to lighten the mood. Don’t just go up there and start spitting out your speech, look for something interesting or engaging that you can say to make your audience relax and connect with you before you go on to make your presentation.

14. Don’t Speak Too Fast: Speaking too fast would affect your breathing pattern and induce anxiety. Learn how to speak slowly and calmly, while taking deep breaths in the middle of your conversations but make sure that it is not obvious to your audience when you are stealing some breathing exercises during your speech.

15. Don’t Memorize 

Being proficient with public speaking does not come from cramming and memorizing line after line of your entire speech. Those who are considered professionals at public speaking remember their speech through key points and sub-topic prompts.

16. Avoid Bullets

Most business speeches and talks usually consist of lackluster rants accompanied by continuous slides and bullet points. Do away with power points and make your information/research the focus of your speech. If you end up going the route of power points, ensure that your message is easily conveyed with visual aids.

17. Reduce Stress-: A minute before you are to take the stage and begin speaking is usually the most fearful time of the presentation. Visualize a positive end and perform deep belly breathing exercises to reduce your stress.

18. Meditate

Sometimes the only thing standing between you and effective public speaking is fear- “What if I forget my speech and start to stutter when I get up there”, “What if the audience doesn’t like me” Meditation can help you get rid of these fears especially if you meditate for 5 minutes a day.

19. Visualization Helps Too: You can also tap into the power of visualization and use it to combat your fear of public speaking. Try to create a mental picture of yourself on that podium, successfully delivering your presentation to the admiration of your audience. This also helps to reduce any negative thoughts and fear that you may have.

20. Get the Audience Involved: Who says you have to go up there and do it all alone? You can involve the audience in your presentation by using them for role plays and demonstrations, or introducing games, quizzes, and exercises that they can do.

21. Prepare for the Question and Answer Session: You don’t want to give a perfect presentation only to screw it up during the question and answer session. If there is going to be a question and answer session, make sure you are adequately prepared for it. Try to come up with possible questions that your audience can ask, and practice your answers to those questions in order to avoid being surprised by questions you cannot answer.

22. Use the Wall Push Technique: The wall push is a simple exercise that involves standing 18 inches away from the wall, placing your palms flat on the wall, and pushing against the wall in such a way that your abdominal muscles contract as you push. The wall push is an exercise that helps you breathe and relax before your presentation.

23. Move On from a Mistake Very Fast

If you make a mistake up there, avoid focusing too much on it. In fact, act like the error never happened; correct yourself immediately and move on. If your audience laughs at you, laugh with them too and avoid feeling embarrassed. Your audience would be able to refocus on your presentation very quickly when they see that making fun of you doesn’t seem to be getting to you as they would be able to see that you are a confident person who knows what they are doing.

24. Laugh: It is never that serious – see every presentation as a leisurely activity. If you act too seriously like you are going for world war III, your chances of slipping up would increase. Go out there and have fun.

In conclusion, you have taken time to prepare for your presentation and it is now time to deliver. You need to surrender and allow yourself to take charge of the moment. Have faith in yourself and believe that you have all it takes to make a successful presentation. Sometimes, your self-limiting thoughts and attitudes is the only thing standing between you and a successful presentation, get rid of them and you will see that everything would turn out well.

Ajaero Tony Martins