IT Employment

Tips for overcoming a fear of public speaking

It always seems to make the top 10 list of fears -- the fear of public speaking. But what do you do if your career can't move forward without it? Here are some tips.

"The fear of speaking is rated as only second to the fear of snakes and before the fear of dying." I read that on some Web site the other day, and I had to laugh. Who did they poll for that particular piece of information? There have been times when I would gladly have babysat Boa Constrictors rather than make a speech in front of strangers.

From what I've read, the fear of public speaking arises from the fact that people don't want to look foolish or stupid in front of their peers and other people. I also think it's a feeling of being out of control -- what if your mind goes blank or you start to ramble incoherently? It may also be a control issue -- if you're a novice, you don't really feel like you have control over how the audience will receive you.

For those of us not in the sales, marketing, or entertainment fields, a fear of speaking can make us physically ill. Unfortunately, there's no magic courage pill you can take. But there are some tips for being successful at speaking.

  • Leave nothing to chance. Lay out your strategies, have your material ready, line up a contingency plan (in case a joke bombs, for example), and practice what you're going to say often and out loud.
  • Take a deep breath before the presentation. It sounds clichéd, but it is biologically effective at lowering your heart rate, and subsequently, your nervousness.
  • Keep it slow and steady. Pause when you need to take a breath; you'll think better.
  • Tell stories. Stories will get your idea across much better than charts and graphs and numbers. They also have the added benefit of helping to engage your audience.
  • Prepare for more than time will allow. Time flies when you're up there, and you may speak quickly out of nervousness.
  • Understand that your audience is on your side. They want to hear what you have to say and to see you do well.

Anybody else have any tips for conquering the fear of public speaking?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

53 comments
drkings
drkings

Thank you for your article Toni - great tips! As a communication coach who often coaches people who are scared of public speaking, I'd like to add one more, and that's around the use of extended soft eye contact. Recent research by Dr Stephen Porges into what he calls the Social Nervous System suggests that eye contact, if used correctly can actually make both ourselves and those we are with feel safer and more receptive. I’ve just written a blog piece which explains how this works and gives some detail on the best sort of eye contact to use for this purpose, which you may find interesting. You can find it here http://presencetraining.co.uk/the-social-nervous-system-why-eye-contact-really-matters-in-public-speaking/ Warmly Daniel Kingsley www.presencetraining.co.uk

WendyMerron
WendyMerron

These are wonderful tips. More and more people have come to me for hypnosis to help them overcome this fear. For those who cannot come in person or find it way too expensive, we recommend them to http://www.HighPerformanceU.com The audio program works directly to change and improve thoughts at the subconscious level. The result is that your fears can diminish and in most cases, even be eliminated.

Muhammad Mahdi
Muhammad Mahdi

Actually there is a miracle drug. Propranolol, brand name Inderal to control anxiety and nervousness before speaking.

jozimmerma
jozimmerma

One thing that helped me overcome my fear of public speaking was taking acting classes and improvisation classes at a local community theater. The classes helped me take the focus off myself and place the focus on the audience so I wasnt "in my head" wondering how I looked/sounded while speaking. The classes really made a difference.

lalbabu.singh
lalbabu.singh

Just think all the listners are naked except you and they have more fear then you. If you have fear from eyes, just see the center of forehead, can help in group discussion and personal interview too.

jacmw
jacmw

Here are some don'ts: To avoid nervousness, do not avoid eye-contact and look at the roof of the room. The presentation looses interactiveness. Secondly, some time we do tend to speak looking at the projection (if you're using a projector) that is behind us to avoid direct contact. This too tends to have a negative effect. I guess, the key advice will be to practice and go slow when presenting. Stop at logical sections to get audience feedback as that will make one relaxed and comfortable. ciao!

vijaykanna
vijaykanna

I always think that all my audience is someone I knew from my daily life and I'm in a friendly environment. It is all about manipulating the brain; I have tried this in interviews too.

The_3rd_Bit
The_3rd_Bit

Try using examples of your personal experience relating your topic as much as possible - its easier to speak when you are yourself.

yantor
yantor

I want to add the tips, we can make it our presentation interactive with our audience, we can ask a question to our audience and wait the response, by this way we can do more control to our presentation performance and of coursee we can take a deep breath while waiting for the response.

paulette.dekker
paulette.dekker

I heard a tip to look just over people's heads to avoid eye contact, but appear to be looking right at them. I am near sighted and find that if I take off my glasses the audience is blurry enough to lack intimidation, but I can still see well enough to notice a raised hand or signs of boredom or need for clarification.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

1. Just Do It! Toastmasters is the favourite suggestion but anywhere that people can speak in a non-threatening forum is good. For example BNI (Business Networking International) and other similar business networking groups require their members to give a 30 second intro every meeting. Also anything where you are speaking other peoples words will help ... church readings, Masonic lodge meetings, Oddfellows, Knights of Columbus etc. All of which are very forgiving -- everyone messes up occasionally so everyone helps out. Acting classes and amateur acting groups are great ... although classes are better to begin with since they don't involve an audience. In short, practice, practice practice. 2. Study other speakers. Watch what they do and try to figure out why. Critique what they do right and what they do wrong. Ask yourself if you would have spotted it if you hadn't been watching so closely. 3. Forgive yourself. Relax ... it's just public speaking, nobody but you will remember your mistakes even if they notice them.

tdarmond
tdarmond

What wonderful advice from everyone! Everyone has their tricks of the "trade"??? from the novice to the experienced. I think it's important to realize that you'll still be the same person once your presentation is over. You may or may not present with jokes, or charisma... but just the facts. That's ok. We all have our own style and personalities. Also, EVERY audience is different. Some are looking for entertainment, some are looking for information...some are killing time. ??? Time yourself and practice your presentation. Account for Q & A time. If you have lights shining in your eyes and can???t see the audience, make the most of it. If lights make you uncomfortable, ask for them to be lowered. As a speaker you have the right to be comfortable, too. One thing I have found most important??? If you relate to your audience as your friend and confident then you???re half way home. Have a glass of water nearby if it helps. Of course it's important that you know and believe in what your presentation is about. If you???re not you won't be effective and your audience WILL pick up on that. What I do know is that if your audience can't HEAR you, they will get frustrated. If you're using a microphone??? do a sound check BEFORE the audience is seated. Nothing is worse than tapping a microphone with your fingers, saying "testing-testing" while people are waiting. When you come out ready and prepared from the get-go, you grab the audience immediately. You may have the jitters, but by golly... you'll be ready. People are just people. You can always pull someone from the audience for a little one-on-one role playing for whatever reason you can come up with to break the ice. When doing so, it truly connects you with everyone grateful that it's you up there and not them. Of course in smaller venues engaging limited one-on-one feedback can connect you as well. We have a choice. We can own that podium or stage... or we can let it own us. We can look at ourselves as a sacrifice to the lions, or as a person with good information to share with constituents. Starting out positively inside of yourself is the confidence that will get you through. Best of luck to all!

sswope
sswope

Remember how the Dread Pirate Roberts finally defeated the Sicilian in "The Princess Bride"? He developed an immunity to the iocaine poison by steadily dosing himself with it over a long period of time. The same can be done with public speaking. If you take every chance that comes your way, speaking before groups steadily becomes less fearsome, and eventually may even strike you as quite humdrum. Personally, I was tremendously self-conscious about talking to anyone I didn't know when I was in junior high school. I couldn't walk into a K-Mart and ask a clerk where to find something without going through a stammering fit. Fortunately, when I got to high school, the older brother of a friend recruited me for the speech and debate team. At first, I refused, but I finally gave in to his relentless hounding. It was a huge turning point in my life. After lots of nervous after-school practice in the coach's classroom, I went to my first speech tournament and won a trophy (I placed third in extemporaneous speaking)! Later, I was on the varsity debate team, placing 5th in the state in my junior year, then 3rd as a senior. I continued in college, winning the state championship as a sophomore. I even coached a national championship team when I was in graduate school, where I taught argumentation and public speaking courses for several years. But the awards aren't the point. What matters most is the payoff in self-confidence, which transcends the simple matter of public speaking. A small investment of time is all it takes to get used to standing up in front of a bunch of strangers. It helps to begin in a controlled, supportive environment, of course. But get up there and DO it! You won't die; you won't explode. And it gets easier every time.

wrlang
wrlang

Good info so far. I jumped in to informational conference speaking in several industries with both feet and had mostly good experiences so far. You can get some attendance fees waived, which alone can be worth it. Budget now supports more conferences if I speak. My problem is initial stage fright and the desire to impart way too much information. I say the first few lines to myself over and over while I???m waiting to take the stage or I???ll be totally blank when I first look out over the crowd. Obviously if you can???t memorize it all or pull the recollection out by a few key words you have too much information. If it???s really important, just read it from paper as a citation. Pictures help with understanding and funny pictures can wake the audience up if you're not a jokester, but they must be pertinent to the information of course. If you throw in a few one liners that you???ve successfully tried on others, don???t wait for a reaction just keep going, unless you get a round of applause. Standing in the doorway and greeting people as they enter can help build a slight rapport with them and gage their attitude. Maybe everyone had a terrible lunch and a good number are disturbed about it. At industry conferences, remember that you can never please everyone. Some people will not have read or understood your synopsis and will walk out because they made a mistake and want to get to a different session that???s better for them. Don???t view people walking out as a big problem for you unless there???s nowhere else for them to go or everyone walks out. I???ve quietly walked out on speakers myself when I accidentally went into the grand ball room A instead of grand ball room B, or the content was obviously going to be at the novice level. While you need to engage the audience through jokes, polls, questions, or even quizzes it is really not your responsibility to keep them awake. Some people would blame the road if they fell asleep at the wheel. Information can be hard to impart and if it???s very technical then you can expect a certain number to doze off. While it is not optimal, only the presentation purists will tell you it???s a real problem. Of course becoming a professional speaker is more entertainment than imparting information. I???ve enjoyed very engaging speakers that provided totally useless information and afterward wondered why I didn???t leave. I guess at that moment I wanted to be entertained rather than informed. My evaluation had great marks for delivery, but poor marks for content. Having gone to conferences for 20+ years, I can???t think of a really great speaker that provided a ton of information, but I can think of several dry presentations from inexperienced speakers that had my undivided attention because of the content of their presentation. To me, and I think to most people, content is the most important thing, delivery is second. Guess I'll never be a professional speaker.

JosB
JosB

Knowing your subject by heart is one thing, knowing your audience another. When I had to do a presentation for tech people on information security I don't have any problem at all. When I had to do it for people in the business I would feel fear. Not because I didn't know my subject, but was not sure if I could translate it to their 'world'. When I have to make a presentation now I just make a small judgement on who my audience will be. If they are tech people, I talk tech. If they are business, I completely skip the tech and talk as much business as possible. If I would give a tech presentation they would be bored, not interested or just confused. Make sure beforehand that your audience knows when to ask questions. I don't like to be interrupted except when something is not clear. And will add some breaks for questions during the presentation. In the end it's all about confidence and you can only gain that by doing presentations or other public speak. But you can prepare by talking to others on the subject to see how they respond.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

Hi There, I was at one time - a terribly nervous speaker. Terrified of my jokes bombing (so I cut them out), speaking way to fast - and afraid I would be "found out". I used two tricks to solve this. The first was to work on confidence in the material. This unsurprisingly came from really knowing (and loving) my subject and believing I knew it. Doing the job every day (and reading around the subject) gave the confidence in the subject matter - and discovering I could answer all the questions in the Q&A sessions gave the belief. The second more unusual thing I did - which was a real leap of faith was go to night school for a year (3 nights per week) to do a foundation in acting - to try to beat the nerves into submission. At first terrifying, then extremely good fun (and for once, outside of imrov - you're not responsible for the quality of the material - only the delivery). A more supportive group of peers I could not have wished to have. Then I did an Am-Dram production. After you've performed to a full house for 5 shows - that really puts the nerves in the shade - and again, really knowing the script, bred the confidence I'm still not entirely cured, but every time I need a shot in the arm to get my belief back up, I go and get a bit part in an Am-Dram production and I'm back to strength. Just need to work on my joke telling. I like the idea of story telling above mentioned in the article - that makes a lot of sense. Regards, Danny

john.luke
john.luke

New speakers tend to speak too quickly. It is almost a fear of silence. Good speakers use pauses to give the audience time to consume what has been said. It also punctuates and can add emphasis to the presentation. So breathe, pace your phrases, allow a pause between topics or chnages of direction or where you want to draw attention to what is about to be said. Going back to the comment on jokes, if you are going to use them at all, be very careful. It is better to avoid a joke if you are not able to deliver it with confidence, wit and style. The alternative doesn't draw laughs and if you are nervous, the lack of audience reaction will only make you feel worse.

Axl_Furneaux
Axl_Furneaux

Of course preparation is key, as many have commented. I would suggest that in my experience, the most important factor is not to try and pretend that you are somebody else - just be yourself. If you are a jokey kind of person - throw in jokes, because they will work. If you are not - don't try it! You will feel uncomfortable and they will probably fall flat.

tgpadaki
tgpadaki

The biggest and most common root cause for Fear of public speaking is "Fear of getting ridiculed / feeling awkward / feeling "lost", when mistakes happen". About 20 years back, I did undergo this 'fear'. The common answer for this is to become PERFECT (or very near to it) in the subject matter. Only few can talk rubbish without fear :) Understand the subject/topic you are talking about and answer all the questions that might arise in the audience. And, ACCEPT that you are not a Superbeing who can answer ALL their questions. Be frank enough to say "I don't know now. I will get an answer to you shortly". That way, you don't start a series of "one lie leads to 100 more" and finally end-up with "I cannot speak in public". If you are true to yourself, then I don't think the fear of getting ridiculed/feeling awkward/feeling lost will trouble you anymore. Regards, Govinda Padaki

Freebird54
Freebird54

While there are a multitude of helpful hints here, if this is a sometime thing here are the 2 MOST important ways of getting through the experience. 1. KNOW WHEREOF YOU SPEAK there is almost nothing that is not made much easier by being SURE that you know the topic inside out. It means that even if you lose a thread, there is another waiting to be picked up (and you can recover the 'missing' ground later or under questioning) 2. If the group is any larger than 2 or 3, some are bound to be further away than others. The biggest help you can give yourself is to be slightly louder than you think you need to be for the person(s) at the very back. This has 4 effects - all beneficial. A) you sound more confident and sure to your listeners, and they pay more attention (at least at first!) B) the sound of confidence gives you some, and it grows throughout your presentation C) the deeper breaths required have some of the same calming effect as the initial deep breath before you begin D) thinking of the volume (and the clarity it requires) is a helpful framework to hang your comments on. Of course, YMMV - but it has worked for a number of people I have mentioned it to - from kids at grade school, teens at high school, and others making business presentations as well. Hope it helps someone else too! :) EDIT: can't count:)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I love this one! Havign taught Dale Carnegie, and pubilc speaking, this one is really easy to overcome, no matter who you are. The key is to practice!!!! YOu don't even have to practice a specific speech, simply practice talking about something for 2 minutes. (Yes that's a LOOONG time when you're not used to it). With office staff you are somewhat comfortable with, get one of them to pose a subject to you. "Inlaws" for instance. And start talking abotu in-laws for 2 minutes (timed, no cheating and no questions of those you are talking to). If it is a subject you don't know well or at all, learn to bridge into your comfort zone. Ex. "Inlaws, while some laws like speeding and seatbelt checks are always enforced, others fall in and out of popularity..... " No it isn't the topic but for training yourself, it teaches you to think outside the box in front of others and be able to think and speak on your feet. You have changed the topic from inlaws (relatives) in 'in' laws something you are more comfortable with. If you can learn to bridge a topic on the fly, it gets really easy and your confidence goes way up. The main rule when speaking on a specific topic you are to be prepared on is to be 100% knowledgeable on the subject. Talking about what you know inside and out is very easy, you are automatically in your comfort zone. Practice imptomptu topics that others throw at you on the spot. This is a weekly excercise at a Dale Carnegie course, 2 and eventually 5 minute topics. Always qualify your comments before moving forward: "As an MCNE and 10yr, network admin for a large novell shop......." Lets people know that you are qualified to talk on teh subject and removes that "who's this guy, to tell me about Novell?" thought from many of your audiences minds. But the KEY for any anxiety and confidence issues is to practice, NOTHING beats practicing, impromptu and rehearsed. Only 2 minutes at a time them moving to 5. the first time you do a 5 minute talk it will be an eternity, after a few weeks it is not enough time as you have more and more to say. Practice practice practice, that's all there is to it. I've taught this to executives, motivational speakers and timid housewives who need a self confidence boost, it doesn't matter who you are, how shy you are or how social you are, you just need practice and it gets SO easy, anyone can handle it. We had one lady in the class who had just moved here and only spoke broken English. She was VERY timid and shy, had been repressed by her husband in her former country and had no self confidence at all. After the 14 weeks, she was able to stand in front of a group of complete strangers and tell them all about her stistching techniques she used for making the most beautiful rugs and throws. Moreso, she was able to capture her audience and have them listen, attentively without growing bored or tired. I'll bever forget the smile on her face, it was one of the most rewarding moments of my career, just seeing her come out of that shell and really enjoy her new ability while feeling empowered.

chaz15
chaz15

No easy way, it mostly comes down to confidence. And different situations differ, depends on the topic, the agenda, the audience and the reasons for speaking. Hold your breath, do it the first time (think about it being over quickly!!!) and it does get easier gradually with time and experience. Accept that you probably will be very nervous first (or first few times out!!!!). Take some calming tablets or if circumstances allow eg at a wedding reception, have a good stiff drink. Do explain to your audience that it's your first public speech and try to project your voice reasonably loudly. Notes, even a few quick written ones help. I was terribly shy and introverted, yet managed many years of successful teaching and lecturing. It was a BIG ordeal at first. Put on your bravest face, use the loo beforehand and promise yourself a BIG treat afterwards. At the event, speak reasonably slowly and put your attention to what you are delivering first and audience second. Once you are over the initial shock, start making eye contact with individuals but do try to choose several in different parts of the audience during your address/ presentation/ speech. Watch good public speakers eg George Bush, Barak Obama. If you have to answer questions publicly (far more difficult than just giving a speech) be sure you have understood the question and answer the question set. Politicians are brilliant at either a) not answering the question or b) leading the answer into another entirely different question or topic!!! But basically it comes down to dealing with your nerves in the way that you can achieve best. DO AVOID being over-tired or too stressed beforehand. It will come and go and if it's a one-off, why worry too much about it! If you have to get used to it you will either overcome 'stage' nerves or permanently give up public speaking. But do go in fully prepared!!!!

geo
geo

I am retired now, but spent 22 years as a professional Trainer. In addition I ran my own DJ business for a number of years. That included a lot of public speaking for various reasons. During that time I found most people are afraid of public speaking, including many in positions where they are constantly doing so, in front of media as well as varying crowds. I always found the usual suggestions for overcoming public speaking fears didn't work very well. Practise, practise, practise was a waste of time other than the first one for timing when needed. Visualizing the people sitting there naked didn't do much for me, giving me the "why am I here" feeling. My suggestions require a bit of effort, a different way of thinking, but they work for most people after only a couple speaking events. * Learn to ad lib. Nothing is more boring than a speaker reading their notes. If you are the speaker, nothing will mix you up more than trying to read a type written speech. * To aid in the above, write keywords or cue cards. These can be on actual cards, or on a hidden laptop. Write them large enough so that you can read them from a distance at a glance. The key words should trigger your content if you know your subject well. If a stranger read your cards, they wouldn't make any sense to them at all. * Learn to use facial expressions as well as gestures. Learn how to look puzzled, worried, fascinated, thoughtful, sad, surprised, stern, and smile often. The other expressions are used to emphasize parts of your speech when appropriate, not all the time. Expressions are tools. * The above includes using your eyes as part of the expression. Once you learn to use gestures, eyes and expressions, you will begin to enjoy presenting or speaking. It doesn't take long. * By using cue cards, and expressions, should anyone hear your presentation twice, it is not exactly the same word for word, but the content is still accurate and the same if you have studied your material before hand, and I know you have. These suggestions allow you to interact with your audience, looking at first one person then another as you include the cue cards in your changing view. You will begin to enjoy your art of speaking, and their expressions will give you feedback. One final thought. Remember you are a human being too, don't talk down to them, you only had access to information that you are willing to share by public presentation. (?`?._.?ns??v??._.???)

sir.ptl
sir.ptl

I'm retired now,but have spent many long years conducting technical training seminars and trade show seminars all over the world/ I have found, with myself and others, that if you're inclined to be nervous it never completely goes away. I always got nervous at the begining, but once I got started i was fine. I like to use a bit of subtle humor and humorous anecdotes during my presentations. It helps make your audience more at ease, and will help put you more at ease. It also brings people back whose minds are wandering. Remember they are there to hear what you have to say. I don't think there's a magic pill. The thing I always felt worked was to keep my cue cards so I could glance down and see where I was at a glance.

gabeyork
gabeyork

Single out one person in the audience and deliver your speech to him/her as if there were only two of you in the room. Easy to do with eye contact though sometimes your target could become a little embarrassed.

tr
tr

I agree that one needs to know their material and speak the presentation out loud in private prior to delivering it to an audience. Doing so allows you to hear yourself and get used to that. It will bring out portions that do not flow well when spoken; where they "sound" just fine in your head, no matter how many times you "read" it that way. Knowing your planned speech fairly well in general terms also allows you just "wing it". If you are winging it, the audience will quickly pick up on this and wing it along with you. Your presentation will be more interesting because it will be off the cuff and animated, as opposed to a staid reading. A stumble for words here and there will be expected... 'cuz, after all, you're winging it. If all of this doesn't give you confidence that you'll be more at ease, just imagine everyone in the audience is sitting there completely naked. Pause, take in the sight, smile knowingly and begin. You'll do just fine.

mwagner
mwagner

If you are looking for some help in overcoming your fears, you can always look to our good friends Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

take a job bartending. You'll overcome that fear or go broke.

lvn
lvn

I have been doing public speaking for over 20 years and I'll go as far as to say that for me, the bigger the audience, the better. For whatever reason, I feel much more comfortable addressing an audience of 50, than let's say 5. When I first started out way back when, sure I was little nervous and such, but I found that there were certain sure-fire methods to ease the process, such as: rehearse your delivery repeatedly until it is second nature to you, move around during your presentation, get to the point where you don't need to keep referring to notes while presenting (what are you going to do if you lose your place and that's all you have to rely upon), use props if appropriate (it helps take the attention off of you)...hope these ideas are helpful to those who are about to embark on this venture.

nepenthe0
nepenthe0

I am nearly 60, and have tried most of the published recommendations, including anti-anxiety medication. Whether I'm performing a Brahms Intermezzo or addressing a group with unfamiliar faces, nothing suppresses the adrenalin rush, the tremulousness, the tension, the inability to think while performing/speaking, the ultimate dissatisfaction with my effectiveness. Some of us should accept the fact that public performance/speaking is not for us. Decline it, avoid it, don't be browbeaten into saying [i]yes[/i] when all your instincts rebel and say [i]no[/i]. Thomas Jefferson, one of our great Presidents, considered himself an ineffective public speaker, and assiduously avoided it. He submitted written materials whenever possible, aware that his legacy would hinge upon what he wrote, not what he said. Rick/Portland, OR

mooks
mooks

I tend to agree that fear of public speaking is rated before the fear of dying. I hate it! But I had to face 1000 people when I delivered a vote of thanks. Here is what I've done. Practice, practice and practice! It sounds clich??d too, but it's a golden rule to overcome the fear when you're standing in front of people, no matter is a small or a large group. Video taping yourself is also good to know how you present, as well as your gesture when speak. You will be surprised how you look. Smile! Yes, sounds silly? But smiling helps you relax, and your audience would feel the same and like to hear your stories. Lastly, be confident what you're talking about, and believe it. If you don't, who will?

lthov
lthov

Toastmasters is about developing better intercommunication and leadership skills. Attend several meetings so you can wrap your mind around all the competencies that are developed in the meeting roles and then take the plunge and join either a corporate club, or a community club! You won't be disappointed; it can help you with public speaking jitters and a whole lot more.

BigIve
BigIve

Stay with me on this one, but I recently attended a training session at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, UK. This involved teaching some basic acting techniques for use in a business setting. Like acting, presenting in front of large groups is not a natural thing for many people and many of the same techniques work quite well. As some of the other posts here have quite correctly said (IMHO) preparation is very important to these situations. As well as technical things like knowing your subject matter and having correct presentation aids, there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself and improve the delivery. Some of the acting techniques make obvious sense - like breathing properly, focussing on clear speaking and getting your posture correct. Other things are a little bit more esoteric like counting a beat as you start your talk (stops you rushing), getting into "character" and marking your "script" with mood notes for emphasis or tone. I did baulk at some of the voice exercises like meowing vowels (maeiou) and stuttering Ts and Ds - apparently they warm up your vocal cords and improve delivery. If you do these make sure nobody is around to see or hear you!! You still have to be yourself or it will seem false and wrong to the audience. People still have to see your personality during the talk, but there is nothing wrong with projecting a different version of yourself, at least during the presentation. One of the key things for me is that acting is appearing to be something you are not. I am not a natural or confident public speaker, but using some of these tools I have at least improved delivery and feel better about doing it (before and after videos ? Ouch!).

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Singling out one person and makign repeated eye contact is the worst way to present a topic to anyone, unless just talking to one person. You are better off looking to the back of your audience, vague, nondescript faces. This way people still see you looking out at the audience but not singling out one person. Singling out/focusing on one or two people leaves the rest of the audience out of the picture and only assures yourself, not the audience. You will lose the interset of your group instantly. You are better off to scan teh audience, making eye contact with many pople or simply scanning them as if not there. At least you are addressing the audience and will keep thier interest as you may just look at ME next and what if I am not paying attention, I'll look stupid then!

paula
paula

I used to work for a company specialising in producing bespoke courses for management professionals called Oade Associates based in th UK. One of the most successful and constantly re-run courses was "Compelling Presentations" and upon reading the posts here I thought I'ld share some tips. Amongst other things it dealt with the stress caused by presentations and the fear of public speaking. I agree with the other posts which mainly deal with what I call the "Practical Anxieties" - these can all be solved quite easily by making sure you research into the subject, plan and prepare your subject so that only your main 3 points are heard, and above all to practise your presentation out loud and preferably in front of willing family members, but the "Impractical Anxieties" haven't really been discussed here. These are the idea's in our head that say "I'll freeze", "It will go horribly wrong it always does", "The audience wants me to fail - they'll laugh at me" and the fear of "Unexpected Happenings!?" whatever they might be. These issues are all psychological and can be dealt with. One of the most common impractical anxieties that I hear is that you will open your mouth and nothing will come out - you will freeze, or that the technology in the room will suddenly become possessed and ruin any chance that you had for a successful presentation! What do these fears sound like? The term "nightmare" springs to mind?Now we all have nightmares, but they don?t come true in the real world. I believe that if you settle the practical anxieties then the impractical ones aren?t so problematic, but lets for a minute explore them. What would you do if they happened? How could you solve the problem ? or get round it? Some of the physical impracticalities like "drying-up", "nothing coming out", the shakes etc can be solved very simply by getting yourself a glass of water and placing it somewhere in the room where you can get to it. It buys you a little time to relax ? the audience will just think you need a drink ? and wets your throat. Licking your teeth is another way to produce saliva in your mouth to speak when you are afraid, but another important thing as a previous post said is to breath. Before you start take a few deep breaths and this tends to help - and if your are struggling mid way through go for your glass of water and take that time to again breath. With regards to unexpected happenings in the room, the audience will most likely sympathise if the technology goes nuts, but there is no excuse for not planning before hand. Find out about the technology available before you do the presentation. On the day, make sure that you check the technology again, and in case the inexplicable happens ? take hard copies of your slides with you so that if you can?t use the technology you can get by with pieces of paper. The presentation does not need to be cancelled, and it shouldn?t throw you ? in fact you can turn it to your advantage with the audience and make a few jokes to break the ice. The audience is there to listen to you! Not read your slides. The slides are only there to back up what you are saying ? or to summarise, if not where is the point of doing the presentation in the first place, you might as well have sent the presentation by e-mail. Its you they are interested in, and as long as you can recover, as gracefully as possible, they will respect you more for it. And finally and this is the most important thing there is to convince your brain - the audience does NOT want you to fail - everyone knows how hard it can be to speak in front of people. You were chosen to speak because you were the best person to speak on that subject therefore you already have the respect of the audience - not because they thought you would fall flat on your face and they could have a giggle! There are various techniques that actors use too that are covered in the workshop and help with stress but they are too lengthy to discuss here but check out the Oade Associates website if you want to know more on this subject...I've waffled enough!

omlac23
omlac23

i dont think im afraid of public speaking or anything of that sort, when ever i do that, pple always tell me i was shaking, but i dont notice, some even go to tell me to feel comfortable when im adressing, or an intervew, every time i do an interview. I think its affecting my career, i need a managerial job but i dont think i will get it with this kind of "behaviour", these tips have failed me many times. anyone with new ideas. but i know im very shy and maybe lack confidence but i always try to suppress it only to be told dont be afraid, im dead.

jake48
jake48

While nothing can relieve the anxiety (even world class performers have anxiety about performances), there is a medication that can block the physical symptoms of excessive adrenalin. Beta-blocking medications (propranolol), taken in relatively small doses (10-20 mg), can block tremors, sweating, palpitations, and globus ("rock in the throat") without affecting cognitive abilities. The anxiety is the "edge" you need. Depending on your career choice and path, speaking may be an essential function.

DrunkWithPower
DrunkWithPower

I'm the exact same way. Dizziness, panic attacks, sweating. But I can only imagine where I would be in my career (or life) if I learned to tame the beast. I have been given the chance to move up but purposely sabotaged it because I would have had to lead meetings. I'm better now because I finally realized that your audience just wants information. They aren't there to judge you like a beauty contest. Take some deep breaths and then give them what they want and get it over with. After it's over, you'll probably feel the rush and want to do it again.

jacqui
jacqui

Not only is it a great way to improve your public speaking in a supportive environment, it's fantastic value! Here in the UK, it only costs ?60-80 a year for 2 meetings a month. This includes all the material as well. I've been a member for nearly 7 years now, still enjoy going, and still learn something every time.

RFink
RFink

I was a member for three years and can testify that it works. They have speech contests for humorous speeches, table topics and the international speech contest. I entered the humorous speech contest and made it to the third round with "Tech Support, How Can't I Help You?"

chepaTT
chepaTT

And for goodness sakes, use PowerPoint only to show relevant graphs, data, images. Nothing will put a group of people to sleep faster than reading bullet points from a PowerPoint slide. Have mercy on your audience. www.edwardtufe.com (search through the ask e.t. forum)has great suggestions for creating material to distribute along with presentations as well as presentation insights and how PowerPoint had ramifications on the Challenger shuttle disaster.

Bernadette Mary
Bernadette Mary

It is nice get good advice, it is a reminder of a better way of doing things. A powerpoint presentation or que cards also help with being prepared for public speaking. It is easy to speak about a subject which you are comfortable with and enjoy.

tihara
tihara

Even though it takes longer to feel more comfortable with public speaking than what most other people are suggesting, I feel the best place to practice is at a Toastmasters meeting. Everyone gets a role--a speaking role. Some of the roles are just a sentence or two long. Examples are ?Thought of the day? and ?Humorist? can give one-liners. Some roles have you explaining your duties. Examples are ?Timer?, ?Word Master?, etc. You can read off a sheet of paper what your duties are. When you participate in ?Table Topics?, you will learn how to speak on your feet. Without prior preparation, you have 1 ? 1 ? mins to talk about a topic. There are speakers, and they have time limits of 3-5 mins, 6-8 mins, etc. At the beginning most of us did a lot of reading off pieces of paper. Examples: Reading the thought of the day, reading something humorous, etc. Some people still (even after being in Toastmasters for over one year) still read their roles instead of just telling them. The Toastmasters environment is a very ?safe? place. It?s a place where we encourage one another. Instead of saying ?you did this or that wrong?, we say ?Instead of doing this, maybe you could try ?.. the next time?. It does take time to get more comfortable with speaking in front of others, so the best time to start is NOW.

robo_dev
robo_dev

The main thing about Toastmasters is that it's a non-threatening environment...it doesn't 'count' so you can mess up and learn from it. I've seen lots of IT folks do a 'dry run' of an important presentation at a toastmasters meeting....and at least half the time they totally screwed it up during the dry run..but did a passable job at the real thing.

waynepd
waynepd

Prepare your material, Know the topic inside out, back to front and upside down. Have fun with it if it is a topic that has cliches attached bring them up in a humorous way. Everyone knows how hard it is to get up and speak in front of peers. You have their sympathy from the start. They've had to do it too.

Bernadette Mary
Bernadette Mary

If the person in the audience appears to be a little more than that, other members might start speculating as to what, if anything is going on, it will make them laugh and keep them coming back for the next instalment. You need to be friends with the person in the audience for that to work.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I think its actually easier to speak to 500 people than 5 (done both). With 500, you can look out, move your gaze, move along, and the whole audience thinks you are paying attention to them, but in reality, you see no one. With 5, you have to make the effort to see them all, or risk alienating them. As a sometimes musical soloist, I find the key is preparation. The better I know the material, the more I can relax and try and enjoy the experience. Actually one of the things that made me relax believe it or not, is making a mistake. I was singing in a quartet of solists, and I made my first entry, but missed the second. No one paniced, and I made it back in, and the audience, unless they knew the piece really well, never knew. The conductor came to me afterwards and reassured me that the important thing was getting back in to the swing. James

jdclyde
jdclyde

I do eye contact, but I keep it moving to get many people feeling involved.

Bernadette Mary
Bernadette Mary

That sounds like some good advice. Now I want to know how "to tame the beast!" I have been told that I have a clear voice.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I've seen teh most anxious and most uneasy come out on top and become great speakers. the problem with anxiety is that it comes on when you are removed from your comfort zone. Make speaking your comfort zone and you'll never have issue again. All public speakers have nerves, famous bands that have toured for 30 years STILL get nreves before heading otu on stage. But they know they can do it, they know they are practiced and they know they will be fine, so they go out and pull it off every night anyway. PRACTICE, that's all there is to it. Once ou are speakign on a topic you KNOW, you will be more confident, once you understand that all you have to do is enjoy yourself, you'll be succesful. People don't want to watch a nervous, unrehearsed speech. But smile and speak with confidence and it doesn't matter what you say, people will listen and heed your words.

jdclyde
jdclyde

"Let the garbage lay where it falls". Pretend your a garbage man. Trash falls on the ground, leave it there and move to the next house. Stopping won't fix the mistake, but acting like it never happened will keep it from being a total loss, or as you pointed out james, many will never even notice.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

They point is that no-one will notice. There are two famous tales about famous actors. One HAD to stand at the curtain with his head through the curtain, cursing the audience with the most vile oaths imaginable for a full 5 minutes. Otherwise he couldn't have gone on. Another used to get the shakes just before he went on and would have to be helped to his entrance. Both of these men were knighted and famous actors and were well known for the depth and control they had as actors. Everyone gets nervous, but if you've practiced enough no one will notice and you'll build enough confidence to carry it off.